A teacher cannot place a grade upon achievement, only a bureaucracy can do that.


Latest Education News

My Contributions

Learner Centered Teaching
Maryellen Weimer

A must read for all educators. Maryellen Weimer presents us with an experience common to all Instructors. Are we actually effective? "Learner centered teachers are there every step of the way, but the real action features students and what they are doing." We cannot transmit knowlege---only information. The student turns that information into knowlwedge, if we allow them to do so.

Clueless in Academe

Gerald Graff

A very interesting romp into the inner sactum---the 'gatekeepers' of a univeristy education. Graff throws a light on the intellectual obfuscation of a university degree. He offers much evidence and a prescription for renewal. You want to get mad? Get a copy today.

What the best college
teachers do

Ken Bain

The best teachers, assume that learning has little meaning unless it produces a sustained and substancial influence on the way people think, act and feel. The best teachers expect more from their students. The best teachers believe that their students want to learn. All the best teachers had to learn how to foster learning.

The Courage to Teach
Parker J. Palmer

Teaching Tips
William McKeachies

This the 12th edition of a fantastic compendium of teaching tips, techniques, methods and strategies. Every teacher should own a copy of this valuable teaching resource.

I have all these books and more, please feel free to borrow any of them.

June 17, 2009.
Higher Education Is Stuck in the Middle Ages -- Will Universities Adapt or Die Off in Our Digital World?

By Don Tapscott, Edge.

There is a huge clash between the model of learning offered by big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up digital learn.

For fifteen years, I've been arguing that the digital revolution will challenge many fundamental aspects of the University. I've not been alone. In 1998, none other than, Peter Drucker predicted that big universities would be "relics" within 30 years.

Flash forward to today and you'd be reasonable to think that we have been quite wrong. University attendance is at an all time high. The percentage of young people enrolling in degree granting institutions rose over 115% from 1969-1970 to 2005-2007, while the percentage of 25- to 29-year-old Americans with a college degree doubled. The competition to get into the greatest universities has never been fiercer. At first blush the university seems to be in greater demand than ever.

Yet there are troubling indicators that the picture is not so rosy. And I'm not just talking about the decimation of university endowments by the current financial meltdown.

Universities are finally losing their monopoly on higher learning, as the web inexorably becomes the dominant infrastructure for knowledge serving both as a container and as a global platform for knowledge exchange between people.

Meanwhile on campus, there is fundamental challenge to the foundational modus operandi of the University -- the model of pedagogy. Specifically, there is a widening gap between the model of learning offered by many big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up digital best learn.

The old-style lecture, with the professor standing at the podium in front of a large group of students, is still a fixture of university life on many campuses. It's a model that is teacher-focused, one-way, one-size-fits-all and the student is isolated in the learning process. Yet the students, who have grown up in an interactive digital world, learn differently. Schooled on Google and Wikipedia, they want to inquire, not rely on the professor for a detailed roadmap. They want an animated conversation, not a lecture. They want an interactive education, not a broadcast one that might have been perfectly fine for the Industrial Age, or even for boomers. These students are making new demands of universities, and if the universities try to ignore them, they will do so at their peril.

The model of pedagogy, of course, is only one target of criticism directed toward universities. (more)

The Chronicle of Higher Education

January 22, 2009
Freshman Retention Continues to Decline, Report Says

The overall percentage of college freshmen who return to the same college for their second year of higher education has declined — again — according to an annual survey released today.

In the 2007-8 academic year, 66 percent of first-year college students returned to the same institution for their second year of college, the lowest percentage since 1989. That figure is down from 68 percent in 2006-7 and 69 percent in 2005-6, according the survey, which was conducted by ACT Inc., the nonprofit testing and research group.

Two-year colleges, however, seem to be exempt from the downward trend. Fifty-four percent of students at two-year public colleges returned for their second year in 2007-8, up from 51 percent the previous year.

Retention rates vary among different types of institutions. They remain higher at four-year colleges (71 percent) than at two-year colleges (54 percent), as has been the case historically. The data, though, provide no specific answers as to why retention rates have dropped over all or why they have conversely risen at two-year public colleges.

The report does note that students who didn’t return to a college after their freshman year might have transferred or “stopped out,” rather than dropped out for good. —Steven Bushong

At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard

Published: January 12, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — For as long as anyone can remember, introductory physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was taught in a vast windowless amphitheater known by its number, 26-100.

Squeezed into the rows of hard, folding wooden seats, as many as 300 freshmen anxiously took notes while the professor covered multiple blackboards with mathematical formulas and explained the principles of Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetism.

But now, with physicists across the country pushing for universities to do a better job of teaching science, M.I.T. has made a striking change.

The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent.

M.I.T. is not alone. Other universities are changing their ways, among them Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard. In these institutions, physicists have been pioneering teaching methods drawn from research showing that most students learn fundamental concepts more successfully, and are better able to apply them, through interactive, collaborative, student-centered learning.

The traditional 50-minute lecture was geared more toward physics majors, said Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard who is a pioneer of the new approach, and whose work has influenced the change at M.I.T.

“The people who wanted to understand,” Professor Mazur said, “had the discipline, the urge, to sit down afterwards and say, ‘Let me figure this out.’ ” But for the majority, he said, a different approach is needed.

“Just as you can’t become a marathon runner by watching marathons on TV,” Professor Mazur said, “likewise for science, you have to go through the thought processes of doing science and not just watch your instructor do it.”(more)

Farewell, Lecture?

Eric Mazur

Discussions of education are generally predicated on the assumption that we know what education is. I hope to
convince you otherwise by recounting some of my own experiences. When I started teaching introductory physics to undergraduates at Harvard University, I never asked myself how I would educate my students. I did what my
teachers had done—I lectured. I thought that was how one learns. Look around anywhere in the world and you’ll find lecture halls filled with students and, at the front, an instructor.
This approach to education has not changed since before the Renaissance and the birth of scientific inquiry. Early in my career I received the first hints that something was wrong with teaching in this manner, but I had ignored it. Sometimes it’s hard to face reality. When I started teaching, I prepared lecture notes and then taught from them. Because my
lectures deviated from the textbook, I provided students with copies of these lecture notes. The infuriating result was that on my end-of-semester evaluations—which were quite good otherwise—a number of students complained that I was “lecturing straight from (his) lecture notes.” What was I supposed to do? Develop a set of lecture notes different from the ones I handed out? I decided to ignore the students’ complaints. (more)

The Parent-Teacher Talk Gains a New Participant

Published: December 27, 2008

STREAMWOOD, Ill. — For years attendance was minimal at Tefft Middle School’s annual parent-teacher conferences, but the principal did not chalk up the poor response to apathetic or dysfunctional families. Instead, she blamed what she saw as the outmoded, irrelevant way the conferences were conducted.

Roughly 60 percent of the 850 students at Tefft, in this working-class suburb some 30 miles northwest of Chicago, are from low-income families. Many are immigrants, unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the tradition of parents perched in pint-size chairs, listening intently as a teacher delivers a 15-minute soliloquy on their child’s academic progress, or lack thereof.

“Five years ago, the most important person — the student — was left out of the parent-teacher conference,” Tefft’s principal, Lavonne Smiley, said. “The old conferences were such a negative thing, so we turned it around by removing all the barriers and obstacles,” including allowing students not only to attend but also to lead the gatherings instead of anxiously awaiting their parents’ return home with the teacher’s verdict on their classroom performance. (more)

Colleges Profit as Banks Market Credit Cards to Students

Published: December 31, 2008

Bank of America’s relationship with the university extends well beyond marketing at sports events. The bank has an $8.4 million, seven-year contract with Michigan State giving it access to students’ names and addresses and use of the university’s logo. The more students who take the banks’ credit cards, the more money the university gets. Under certain circumstances, Michigan State even stands to receive more money if students carry a balance on these cards.

Hundreds of colleges have contracts with lenders. But at a time of rising concern about student debt — and overall consumer debt — the arrangements have sounded alarm bells, and some student groups are starting to push back. (more)

The Chronicle of Higher Education

December 30, 2008

Distance Education Becomes a Major Part of Course Catalogues

Washington — A majority of colleges in the United States — 65 percent — offer college-level, credit-granting distance-education courses, according to a survey released today by the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

It is another sign that distance education is becoming a staple of college life. Although the survey did not compare the present to the past, recent data from colleges indicate a jump in online enrollment. Last summer, The Chronicle reported, the Tennessee Board of Regents noted that summer enrollment in online courses was up 29 percent over last year. At Brevard Community College, in Cocoa, Fla., enrollment in summer online courses rose nearly 25 percent. Harrisburg Area Community College, in Pennsylvania, saw its summer online enrollment climb 15 percent to 20 percent.

Many observers attributed those spikes to $4-per-gallon gasoline at the time — going online was cheaper than driving to class — but others attributed them to a longer-term embrace of distance teaching.

The new survey, done in 2007, polled 1,600 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia; 90 percent of them responded.

The courses they offered reflected a variety of education methods: 61 percent of two- and four-year institutions said they gave online courses (usually meaning all instruction is online), 35 percent said they gave hybrid or blended courses (combining online and in-class work), and 26 percent reported other types of college-level, credit-granting distance-education courses (which might include postal correspondence courses).

Over all, the two- and four-year institutions in the survey estimated 12.2 million enrollments (or registrations) in college-level, credit-granting distance-education courses in the 2006-7 academic year. —Josh Fischman

Physics Classes

Natural Science 100
Natural Science 412
Physics 180A
Physics 180B
Physics 195
Physics 196
Physics 197
Physics 201

Undergraduate Physics Labs
107, 182A/B, 195L, 196L

Student Work on Graphic Organizers
Gravitation - I, II, III, IV
Special Relativity I - I, II, III, IV
Special Relativity II - I, II, III, IV

Physics Animations


Reflection off Concave Mirrors

Dropping the Balloon II

Relativistic Addition Long - Short - PDF

Trigonometry and Vectors
let the presentation load

- Acceleration - 1, 2

Animated MotionGraph

Projectile Motion Presentation
let the presentation load


Animated Forces Problem

Conservation of Momentum
let the presentation load

Archimedes Principle


Electricity and Magnetism
let these presentations load

Electric Fields
let the presentation load


Electric Charge Interaction

Millikan's Experiment

let the presentation load

Mass Spectrometer

let the presentation load

Gauss's Law
let the presentation load


Faraday's Law 1, 2


Force on Current Carrying Wire

Tony's Motor

RLC Circuit

Density Demo

Mass Spectrometer

Rocket Science

The Snowball Fight

Modern Physics

Hertzsprung Russel

Big Bang

- Alpha
Curved Space
DiMauro's Hypothesis

Critical Reading Assignments


Problem Solving Examples

Homework Example 1, 2, 3
Fermi Problems 1, 2, 3, 4
1-D Motion 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
2-D Motion 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Vectors 1, 2, 3, 4
FreeFall 1, 2, 3
Forces 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Work 1, 2, 3, 4
Energy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Momentum 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Ballistic Pendulum 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Rotational Motion 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Static Equilibrium 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Doppler Effect 1, 2, 3, 4
Fluids 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Electric Fields 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Gauss's Law 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Electric Potential 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Currents and Caps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Magnetic Fields 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Faraday's Law 1, 2, 3
Inductance 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
AC Circuits-RLC Circuits 1, 2, 3


Fall 2008
180A /180B / 195 / 196
94 / 117 / 79 / 75  (365)

With increasing numbers of students, I reduced the number of DRS Problems from two to one on each test. I also developed
Problem Solution Templates
for various problems in each of the four classes.
I also developed many
Keynote Physics Presentations
(1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Student Assessment 2008
Progressive / Fairness Pts
Communication with Students

180A Study Guide 1, 2, 3, Final
180A Tests 1 b, 2 b, 3 b, F b

180B Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

180B Tests 1 b, 2 b ,3 b, 4 b, 5 b

195 Study Guide 1, 2, 3, Final
195 Tests 1 b, 2 b, 3 b, F b

196 Stu Guide 1, 2, 3 Sup, Final

196 Test 1 b, 2 b, 3 b Sup, Final

Spring 2008
180A / 195 / 19
6 / NS412
75 / 72 / 81 / 35   (263)

My assessments were maturing around two complete DRS Problems, 3 multiple-choice questions with rationale and 3 short answer questions.

Student Assessment 2008
Progressive / Fairness Pts
Communication with Students

180A Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
180A Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

195 Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
195 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Stu Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Fall 2007
180A / 195 / 196
/ NS412
58 / 65 / 66 / 26  (215)

Student Assessment 2007
Progressive / Fairness Pts

180A Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
180A Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

195 Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
195 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Stu Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Summer 2007
180A / 180B / 196
57 / 59 / 27  (143)

180A Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
180A Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

180B Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
195 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Stu Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Spring 2007
180A /180B / 195 / 196

60 / 77 / 63 / 39  (239)

Student Assessment 2007
Progressive / Fairness Pts

180A Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
180A Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

180B Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
195 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

195 Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
195 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Stu Guide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

196 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Fall 2006
180A / 180B / NS412
245 /70 /21  (336)

I offered group work in an effort to encourage students to verbally articulate the concepts. Students were required to produce audio recordings and video recording to be placed on the web, to listen to their peers and positively evaluate each others' recordings.

Student Group Pages

Req. Group Work 2006

Peer-to-Peer Eval Criteria
RealTime Group Discussions

RealTime Discusion Criteria

180A Study Guide 1, 2, 3,
180A Tests 1, 2, 3, 4

180B Study Guide 1, 2, 3, 4
195 Tests 1, 2, 3, 4

Summer 2006
180A / 195
49 / 43  (92)

Spring 2006
180B / NS412
151 / 13   (164)

I offered a PodDebate assignment in an effort to encourage students to work collaboratively and verbally articulate the concepts. I used a debate contest structure to bring students together.

Pod Debate Student Pages

8 - HW Assignments 75 pts.
8 - Quizzes 80 pts.
PodDebate 150 pts.

Electric Field Detectors

Final - Angels from Time to Come
Audio answers

Fall 2005
180A / 180B /182A
253 / 196 / 28  (474)

I began to require that students answer homework problems with a useful diagram, sufficient reasoning and the complete solution. Students were required to turn in their homework. I hand graded 5 of the 20 problems assigned. I assessed the students based on their ability to give rationale with their answers. I also began to use Progressive grading.
(DRS Problems).

12 - HW Assignments 25 pts.
3 - Tests 150 pts.
3 - Quizzes 100 pts.
Final 6 Big questions

Summer 2005
NS100 / 180A / 180B / P197
9 / 65 / 97 / 19  (190)

Spring 2005
180A / 180B
190 /145  (335)

I began to require that students complete homework problems with a useful diagram, sufficient reasoning and a complete solution.

Final Paper
Angels from Time to Come

Fall 2004
NS100 / NS412

77 / 33

Summer 2005

Spring 2004
NS100 / NS412 / 182B
80 / 23 /27  (130)

In NS100, I developed an article assignment in an effort to get students to actively read science articles and critically respond to them.

Critical Reading Assignments

Opening Day PodCast
Angels from Time to Come
Conservation of Energy
Momentum 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Work-Kinetic Energy
Rotational Motion 1, 2, 3, 4
Fluids 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Assessment Documents

Student Assessment 2007
Student Assessment 2008
Progressive / Fairness Pts
Extra Credit Assignment


2009 - 1, 2, 3, 4
2008 -
180A - 2007 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
195 - 2007 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
196 - 2007 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
2006 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
2005 - 1, 2, 3, 4

Student Examples

Quizzes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
9, 10, 11, 12, 13
Practices 1, 2, 3, 4
Tests 1, 2, 3, 4

Physics Education Research Articles
Please email me for the complete article or come by my office.

FreeBody Diagrams
David Rosengrant
Alan Van Heuvelen, and
Eugenia Etkina

College Physics for Biologists
Reddish and Hammer

Grade Inflation II, III, IV
Brian Manhire
The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation
Alfie Kohn

Transforming Physics Education
Carl Wieman - Katherine Perkins

Enhancing conceptual change using argumentative essays

Calvin S. Kalman, Shelley Rohar, and David Wells
Am. J. Phys. 72 5, May 2004

Studio vs Interactive Lecture Demonstration – Effects on Student Learning
Harry Roy

The future of physics education research: Intellectual challenges and practical concerns
Guest Editorial
Am. J. Phys. 73 5, May 2005

Improving Productivity in Higher Education - The Need for a Paradigm Shift
Carol A. Twigg

Remodeling University Physics with Physics Education Research
David Hestenes at the AAPT conference

Evaluating multiple-choice exams in large introductory physics courses
Michael Scott, Tim Stelzer, and Gary Gladding
Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research
(2)2, 2006

Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results
Catherine Crouch - Eric Mazur
Am. J. Phys. 69 (9), Sept 2001

Understanding or memorization: Are we teaching the right thing?
Eric Mazur
Department of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138,

Rethinking the Content of Physics Courses
Diane J. Grayson

The Student-Centered Activities Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project
Robert J. Beichner, Jeffery M. Saul, David S. Abbott, Jeanne J. Morse, Duane L.Deardorff, Rhett J. Allain, Scott W. Bonham, Melissa H. Dancy, John S. Risley

Students do not overcome conceptual difficulties after solving 1000 traditional problems
Eunsook Kima and Sung-Jae Pak

A Multiplicity of Intelligences
by Howard Gardner

The Learning Cycle
Steven Maier-Edmund A. Marek

The Physics Teacher
Vol. 44, February 2006

How long does it take? A study of student acquisition of scientific abilities
Eugenia Etkina, Anna Karelina, and Maria Ruibal-Villasenor

Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research
(2)2, 2006

I have four to five years of American Journal of Physics, Physics Teacher and Physics Today in my office. Please do not hesitate to come in and peruse through the stacks.

Physics Education Resources

Modeling Instruction Program

University of Colorado at Boulder

AAHE Assessment Principles