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URGENT: How to teach Summer School Conceptual Physics?

  1. Jun 29, 2014 #1
    I have six weeks (19 school days) to teach half-a-course worth's of material to the students who failed Conceptual Physics. I have five days to teach: What is physics, the concepts and some basic problems of linear motion, and all three Newton's laws.

    Alas, the first three days haven't proved fruitful, most of them are failing the quizzes. That gives me two days left to teach physics, linear motion, and Newton's laws. The principal assistant made it clear to me that the goal is to get the students to pass, teach the salient points, and keep the students engaged, but there's no time for labs and almost no time for discussion.

    I tried teaching to the test as a last resort, steering them to the right answers, writing the answers on the board to copy to their notes, keeping the quizzes open notes, but still most of them are failing.

    Any suggestions on how to get the students to learn the material quickly?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2014 #2


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    Use analogies as much as possible. Conservation of momentum, they shove someone on the playground, if they shove a fat kid, they themselves may fall over backwards because of the conservation of momentum. Tie it back to their own experience, perhaps that'll help.
  4. Jun 29, 2014 #3
    Thanks verty. I discussed it with another teacher and will be going by what she said. It seems the administration doesn't care much about how much of the curriculum is taught, just that the students pass having been exposed to the most important points. My friend suggested I work more on making the physics inspiring, exciting, and a fun path they may want to pursue in college, and that I not worry about them getting the right answers for the problems. In the big picture, the goal should be to change their lives and motivate them to get hungry for more. I'll focus on that.

    I'll incorporate your suggestion for conveying the concepts in a fun, easy-to-understand manner.

    Thanks again! :)
  5. Jun 30, 2014 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    This thread nicely encapsulates one of the major problems in education- not just K-12 but higher ed as well.

    Dafkah, please note I am not irritated with you- I am highly p*ssed at your administration. For example, since these students already failed the class, on what basis should anyone expect that the same students taking the same class, offered in a more compressed format than usual, would somehow perform better? It's a fundamentally flawed approach. Even worse, you have explicitly been told by the administration that student learning is not relevant, only the pass/completion rate- and that's essentially malpractice.

    Furthermore, by dumping this problem on you- presumably a non-tenured teacher with no recourse should administration summarily fire you for 'non performance', the administration prevents any meaningful reform from occuring.

    So, what are your options? I can think of at least 3:

    1) Dumb-down the class so that everyone passes. There are many ways to do this, and this is the desired outcome as far as your administration is concerned.
    2) Teach the class to the best of your ability and let the grades fall where they may. This puts you at risk when the majority of students fail (as they have already done)
    3) Try and find a balance between rigorous content and "fun" activities- there are a lot of good online resources for K-12 science education through NSF, AAPT, and other teaching organizations. Try to reach the small percentage of students who are on the cusp of competence, and realize that you don't want to work for the current administration- do a good job now, make professional contacts, and get a better job.

    Good luck....
  6. Jun 30, 2014 #5


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    Start with the basics.

    A good reference is Hyperphysics:
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