Reformed Physics Teaching in SPH4U

I have adopted Chris Meyer’s Reformed Physics Teaching method for SPH4U and I have been incredible impressed!

We have finished the intro unit and the first major unit on kinematics, and I  (and some of the students already) have seen great value from the strategies he uses.

The courses he has created are collaborative-, inquiry-, and critical-thinking-based. It involves:

  • students working through tasks as a small (3-4 students) groups that guide them through their learning
  • daily homework so students can practice individually (typically 1-2 problems)
  • collaborative group problem solving challenges
  • quizzes/tests (which have a collaborative component at the beginning)

One very interesting and important aspect is how students are taught to solve physics problems. Instead of focusing on the the mathematical solution only, the students need to show their understanding using sketches, motion/force diagrams/vectors, word explanations, and evaluations of their answers (this is why homework are only 1-2 questions, as it takes much longer to do each one).

As someone with a looooooong education in physics, I see this aspect of the course incredibly valuable. Knowing how to crunch the math and having a true understanding of the physics are two very different things, and this focus on the understanding will help students* immensely as they move forward into their post-secondary education. So, even though the problems take much longer to work through, it forces students to understand physical situations and concepts from different angles, therefore increasing their understanding.

This is certainly a more challenging method for students, but one that will come with a lot of pay off if they put in the effort.

* and I definitely see a difference in my own understanding!

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