What is the focus of your investigation?
motivation for moving to a different mode of teaching introductory
physics courses was threefold. First, the traditional lecture and
recitation format for teaching the mechanics and electromagnetism
courses at MIT has traditionally had a 40-50% attendance rate, even
with good lecturers, and a 10% or higher failure rate. Second, a range
of educational innovations in teaching freshman physics has
demonstrated that any pedagogy using interactive-engagement methods
results in higher learning gains than the traditional lecture format.
Finally, unlike many educational institutions in the US and around the
world, the mainline introductory physics courses at MIT have not
included a laboratory component for over three decades. Experiments
were something we felt were crucial for understanding, and something we
were anxious to re-introduce.
objective of the TEAL project is to transform the way physics is taught
to large physics classes at MIT in order to decrease failure rates and
increase students conceptual understanding, as well as maintaining
their quantitative problem solving skills. Visualization technology can
be used to support meaningful learning by enabling the presentation of
spatial and dynamic images, which portray relationships between complex
concepts. This is especially important in electromagnetism, where the
concepts are hard to grasp and visualize.
Supported by the d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education
Also supported by the MIT/Microsoft iCampus Alliance
Physics 8.02T course web site
What resources / references have you found helpful?
Physics" loosely denotes a format instituted in 1994 at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute by Professor Jack Wilson. This pedagogy has been
modified and elaborated on at a number of other universities, notably
in North Carolina State University's Scale-Up program, under Professor Robert Beichner. Our approach is most similar to the NCSU Program.
The Scale-Up Project at NCSU
Fig. 1 Undergraduate physics students in the d’Arbeloff Studio Classroom.
What was your approach and what tools were constructed to facilitate the students' understanding of the subject matter?
TEAL project is centered on an active learning approach, aimed at
helping students visualize, develop better ntuition about, and
conceptual models of electromagnetic phenomena. Taught in a specially
designed classroom with extensive use of networked laptops, this
collaborative, hands-on approach merges lectures, recitations, and
desktop laboratory experience in a media-rich environment. In the TEAL
classroom, nine students sit together at round tables (Fig. 1), with a
total of thirteen tables.
hours of class per week is broken into two, two-hour sessions and a
one-hour problem-solving session led by graduate student teaching
assistants. The students are exposed to a mixture of presentations,
desktop experiments, web-based assignments, and collaborative
exercises. The desktop experiments and computer-aided analysis of
experimental data provide the students with direct experience of
various electromagnetic phenomena.
TEAL also incorporates advanced two- and three dimensional visualizations,
that employ Java applets, ShockWave visualizations, and 3ds max
animations to allow students to gain insight into the way in which
fields transmit forces by watching how the motion of objects evolve in
time in response to those forces. The animations allow the students to
intuitively relate the forces transmitted by electromagnetic fields to
more tangible forces.
an example of one of our visualizations, Figure 2 shows the output of
an applet that allows students to explore visually the structor of
vector fields. The vector field in this case has an x-component give by
sin(y*y) and a y-component given by cos(x*x).
What results have emerged?
TEAL Project has had a robust assessment and evaluation effort underway
since its inception. This effort is led by Professor Judy Yehudit Dori,
a faculty member in the Department of Education in Technology and
Science at the Technion. We use a variety of assessment techniques,
including the traditional in-class exams, focus groups, questionnaires,
and pre and post testing. Our pre and post tests consists of 20
multiple choice questions covering basic concepts in electromagnetism.
Some of these questions are taken from standardized tests that have
been developed and used at other institutions, and some of these
questions were developed at MIT.
3 shows the results of the pre and post testing for Spring 2003 8.02.
The results are given for three categories of student scores: High,
Intermediate, and Low. This separation allows us to gauge the
effectiveness of instruction across the range of student backgrounds;
the separation is made using the student score on the pre-test. The
difference between the pre and post scores is a measure of the
effectiveness of instruction.
summarize those results, the learning gains in TEAL Spring 2003 by
standard measures are about twice those in the traditional
lecture/recitation format across the entire range of student
backgrounds. In particular, we compared our results in TEAL to the
standard MIT lecture/recitaiton format taught in Spring 2002. The fact
that interactive-engagement teaching methods produce about twice the
average normalized learning gains when compared to traditional
instruction replicates the results of many studies obtained at other
universities, including Harvard.
More about TEAL and its assessment and evaluation
Fig. 3 Comparison of student scores on pre/post tests for Spring 2003