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Switching schools, am I just inept?

  1. Mar 25, 2013 #1
    I'm in quite a predicament, I'm in my second year as a physics undergrad and I have far less than stellar grades to show off for my intro physics classes. The problem is that my physics classes are a "scale-up" environment. For those of you that don't know what scale up means; instead of having a lecture in which you take notes, a professor gets in front of the class, talks for 3-4 minutes and then proceeds to hand out worksheets in which you work in groups to figure out problems together for about 3 hours. The classes are incredibly draining, the problems on exams are incredibly vague and resemble little of what was done in class, and the environment in which you learn is loud. In other words, it's like trying to figure out physics in a crowd of talking people, then examined on material that remotely resembles what you've learned. And don't even get me started on Mastering Physics[/ranting].
    To give you an idea how difficult the classes are to learn from, one of my bests friends dad has a phd in physics and taught for over 30 years, and couldn't believe how misleading and vague the coursework was. I'm going to get yet another C by the skin of my teeth and it's really frustrating. The easy way out would be to transfer schools, however my university has one of the highest respected physics programs on the east coast.
    Any ideas about what I should do? Should I stick it out and over time try to learn the patterns of how the course is run? Or would the smart thing to do would be to take my education elsewhere?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2013 #2
    What you described was how my first 2 physics were. At the time, I was mildly annoyed from the discussion within class with other students but it also taught me a lot. Upper level classes don't do discussions anymore and I wish we had it back. Now, it's listen to some professor talk and talk, shake my head, takes some notes, and then be confused at the end of class. Even though questions are "encouraged" many students don't ask them because everyone acts like they understand during the lecture when in fact only a small amount actually do. Then when you ask a question others seem annoyed that you aren't getting it. It's some weird I'm-so-smart macho thing in engineering. But then everyone struggles with the homeworks later on.. guess they didn't get it.

    I guess that was a rant more than anything but I would encourage you to push through it. The best thing you can do right now is read ahead before those types of lectures so you can have your way of thinking of it worked out beforehand then see how others think about concepts. If you know how the tests are done by now then study for those formats.
  4. Mar 25, 2013 #3
    Confusion is a good thing if it gets resolved.

    If you ask students how well they grasp a concept then test them on that very same concept you find students perception of how well they grasp a concept is not positively correlated with them doing well on a test of that concept.
  5. Mar 25, 2013 #4


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    You neglected to describe how other students are doing. If there are students who are getting A's in the exams, and are actually doing well in the class, then it is obvious that your impression of how the class is conducted is not shared by all the other students. So then you need to figure out why they are doing well, and you are not. Is it really an inherent problem with the class, or is the problem actually is with you?

  6. Mar 25, 2013 #5


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    It sounds to me like this school is trying to teach the entire subject the way labs are generally conducted. Some students learn really well in that kind of environment, but others won't get much at all out of it. What really matters here is whther or not it works for you. If you conclude this system is not working for you, it doesn't matter how "highly respected" the school is. It's much better to go to a "less respected" program that you learn from than a "more respected" one that you don't.
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