TEACHING EXPERIMENTAL PHYSICS THROUGH ACADEMIC EXPERIENCES
Universidade da Coruña (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:One of the problems in teaching physics, in not purely scientific or technical degrees (as those in health sciences or natural sciences), is that mathematical tools commonly used to teach physics generate rejection by some students. Students who begin studies in these degrees generally come from the biomedical branch and they have not a good background in mathematics, therefore the use of mathematical tools such as equations, derivatives, integrals…complicates the teaching of the subject and leads to poor performance on assessments. So the natural tendency is to minimize the mathematical language, trying to focus on explanations of physical concepts and avoiding their expression through equations. Even in those cases some students think that physics is similar to math because it is necessary to know math to understand physics.
We have reformed the way we teach physics for biology degree students (it is a subject of the second semester of the first course) to avoid this situation. This subject includes 24 hours of explanatory classes, 8 hours for seminars and 15 hours of practical laboratory classes. We use half of the lectures to academic experiments, explaining the physics that we will study in each chapter. Thus students clearly separate mathematics from physics. For this purpose we choose the most interesting phenomenon of each chapter to be shown in the classroom and explain it qualitatively, analyzing the different variables that may influence this phenomenon. We try to involve all students in the different experiments so that all of them can "touch" the physical phenomena explained. Experiments are recorded and will be part of the material available to students. Obviously in the evaluation tests will be some questions related with those experiences.
We hope that with this concept of teaching physics students will notice a clear difference between physics (the explanation of natural phenomena) and mathematics (the language used to scientifically write it). Also we expect that the experiments made with the students will be remembered by them form many years because they will be of enough interest, helping to fix in their minds the different physical concepts. Finally, we are convinced that students will attend much more to the explanations and will have a much better concept of this subject.
Equations will be used in the seminars devoted to problems and in the other half of expositive classes, as well as in the laboratory.