“Why Should I Care?”- Teaching Physics to Non-Believers
Jan 17, 2007
3:30PM to 4:30PM
Date(s) - 17/01/2007
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Title: “Why Should I Care?”- Teaching Physics to Non-Believers
Speaker: Dr. Robert E. Thorne
Institute: Cornell University
Location: ABB 102
Introductory physics courses for life-science and premedical students are dreaded by students and faculty alike. Students perceive them as challenging, boring and irrelevant obstacles whose sole purpose is to destroy their GPA. Faculty perceive students in these courses to be grade-obsessed, analytically challenged, demanding and impossible to please, and the teaching of these courses as a community service to be endured.
I will argue that these courses are in fact the “canary in the coal mine” signaling the failure of our traditional modes of instruction. Unlike physics majors and other “true believers”, who are able to achieve subject mastery with little guidance, connecting with non-believers requires faculty to actually teach. Traditional instruction drives many gifted students out of our field, and accounts in part for the tremendous attrition of women and minorities from physics between high school and university graduation.
I will describe a variety of strategies to more fully engage non-believers, to convey to them the power and excitement of our field, and to address common psychological issues that affect student attitudes to and performance in physics.