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PUT THEORY INTO PRACTISE: MEASUREMENT ASSIGNMENTS IN PHYSICS THEORY COURSES

S. Suhonen

Tampere University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
Online materials and flipped classroom methodology have freed classroom time from one directional sharing of information, i.e. lecturing, to more activating teaching methods. In our university of applied sciences, this has meant that physics theory courses nowadays include measurement assignments in many topics. These assignments have approximately 25 % weight in final grade. The measurement assignments have both similarities and differences with laboratory work, which is also included in the curriculum of all engineering degree programs. In this paper, the course model is presented together with examples of measurement assignments.

The basic idea is the same in measurement assignments and laboratory works: to deepen the understanding of laws of physics by actually seeing and measuring different phenomena. However, there are differences as well. The biggest dissimilarities are in time scale and teacher guidance. The measurement assignments are supposed to be accomplished within three hours from briefing to reporting without teacher interference and help, whereas in laboratory works students usually have two weeks to finish their reporting and the teacher guides and helps students in the laboratory to accomplish their task. The measurement assignments are usually one-topic relatively simple tasks, which doesn’t need very complicated equipment.

In a measurement assignment, the student group itself need to find the best way to collect the necessary data, find the relevant laws of physics and the correct ways to implement them with the given equipment. This they can only achieve by discussing, reasoning and considering different arguments and counter arguments together in the group. Measurements assignments therefore have learning objectives beyond the topic itself: the students learn to argument their opinion, evaluate peers’ opinions, evaluate if they themselves really know ,based on laws of physics, or just have a certain “feeling” . Moreover, an engineer needs to know (and admit it) when he/she doesn’t know, not to pretend knowing, and seek for support from colleagues. If the student group ends up to a wrong answer in measurement assignment, they then have opportunity to find where their own cognitive model was incorrect and rebuild it. These aspects make measurement assignments in theory courses a beneficial way to activate students.