Study of the principles and practice of lecture instruction in physics through association with staff in Physics 101a. The student will attend and critique course lectures; prepare, practice and deliver a lecture; develop a lecture demonstration to be used in his or her lecture; participate in the preparation of examination problems and their evaluation; address student questions in the physics clinic; and write an evaluative final paper. Open to senior physics and astronomy majors.

Involvement in Instruction

LECTURE--during one week you will be intensively involved in the lecture portion of the course as follows:

- preparing and delivering to the Instructors of Physics 101 and the other students in Physics 460 a practice lecture. If this lecture is deemed successful, you will subsequently deliver it in Physics 101.

- designing and developing in collaboration with the Physics Laboratory Instructor (Scott Shelley) a new (or substantially improve an existing) demonstration to be used in your lecture. (Request the list of existing demos from the Laboratory Instructor. You should also read Chapter 1: How to Design Simple Physics Demos in: Why toast lands jelly-side down : zen and the art of physics demonstrations by Robert Ehrlich, Princeton University Press, 1997.

EXAMS--for each of the 3 exams, each 460 student will be responsible for proposing one test problem. The problem must be presented along with its solution and in fully written-up form in WORD format to facilitate inclusion in the exam if it is selected. If a problem is selected for inclusion, its author will grade it on all student exams.

CLINIC--throughout the semester you will be involved in assisting the students in their work on the assigned exercises in the physics clinic. You should each plan to spend 2 hours in the clinic on Thursday evenings. Although you are likely to be able to do all the problems without difficulty you should work out all solutions in advance anyway to eliminate any glitches. It is also important to use the clinic in a pedagogically useful manner. It is especially important to resist the temptation just to do the problems for the students. To prepare for countering pressure from the students to do this you are assigned to write up, in advance (give to your instructor to look over sometime in advance), your first response for all even-numbered problems to a student who says to you something like, "I don't get problem 2.48." The 101 instructor(s) will stop by occasionally during the clinic.


The requirements of Physics 460 also include a research cum experience paper on the topic of Teaching Basic Physics. Your research should make use of the books and articles on reading list appended and independent literature research on teaching effective problem solving strategies. This research should be analyzed in the paper in light of your actual experiences in the course. The paper should be approximately 15 pages (double-spaced) in length and include footnotes and a full bibliography.

Course Grading

Your grade in Physics 460 will be based on the paper and on the quality of your contributions to the instruction of the course. Each overall aspect of the latter will be assessed by one or both instructors and discussed with you and will contribute as follows to your grade:



Lecture demo


Exam proglems




Final Paper


Reading Lists

Two good one-stop resources for learning about a broad range of physics education research topics are: Redish, Edward F., Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003 and Knight, Randall D., Five Easy Lessons, Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching, San Francisco, CA: Addison Wesley, 2004.

The journals, The Physics Teacher and the American Journal of Physics (AJP) are good references for physics pedagogy and physics education research. You can find both in our library, although presently (2003) only AJP is available online. Here is a partial list of useful books on physics pedagogy, science education and physics education research.

Here is a good online listing of readings: PhysTEC (Physics Teacher Education Coalition)


Eric Mazur, Interactive Teaching:  Promoting better understanding using Peer Instruction and Just-in-Time Teaching, Featuring the documentary From Questions to Concepts, Pearson Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2007.

Physics Education Research & Teaching Resources:

Arons, A. B. (Arnold B.) A guide to introductory physics teaching, New York : Wiley, 1990.

Arons, A. B. (Arnold B.) Homework and test questions for introductory physics teaching, New York : John Wiley, 1994.

Ken Bainl, What the Best College Teachers Do, Harvard University Press, 2004.

Wolfgang Christian, Mario Belloni, Physlets: Teaching Physics with Interactive Curricular Material, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001

Mario Belloni, Wolfgang Christian, Anne J. Cox, Physlet Quantum Physics: An Interactive Introduction , Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2006

Reducing the gender gap in the physics classroom, Mercedes Lorenzo, Catherine H. Crouch and Eric Mazur, Am. J. Phys., 74, 118-122 (2006). DOI

Karen Cummings, Priscilla W. Laws, Edward F. Redish, Patrick J. Cooney, Understanding Physics, New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2004

Duncan, Douglas, Clickers in the Classroom, How to Enhance Science Teaching Using Classroom Response Systems, San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc., 2005

E. Etkina et al., "Lessons Learned: A case study of an integrated way of teaching introductory physics to at-risk students at Rutgers University", American Journal of Physics, 67 (9) (1999) 810.

Kathleen A. Harper & Sandra Doty, A New TA's Guide to Teaching Introductory Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

Edited by Robert C. Hilborn, Ruth H. Howes, Kenneth S. Krane, Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics: Project Report, College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers, 2003

David P. Jackson, Priscilla W. Laws, Scott V. Franklin, Explorations in Physics: an activity-based approach to understanding the world, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2003. (While the basic activities are pretty simple and low-level for our intro physics students, they have good ideas for demonstrations and more complex problems at the end of each chapter).

Knight, Randall D., Five Easy Lesson:, Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching, San Francisco, CA: Addison Wesley, 2004

Laws, Priscilla W., Workshop Physics Activity Guide, Core Volume with Module 1, New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997

Laws, Priscilla W., Workshop Physics Activity Guide, Module 3: Heat, Temperature, and Nuclear Radiation, New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997

John W. Layman, Inquiry and Learning: Realizing Science Standards in the Classroom, published by the College Board, New York, 1996.

Can We Teach Computers to Teach?, Eric Mazur, Computers in Physics, 5, 31-38 (1991).

Doing Physics with Computers, Eric Mazur, Academic Computing, February, 18-21, 46-48 (1988).

Editors, Richard A. McCray, Robert L. DeHaan, Julie Anne Schuck, Improving Undergraduate Instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003

Lillian C. McDermott, Peter S. Shaffer, and the Physics Education Group, Tutorials in Introductory Physics, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998

Lillian C. McDermott and the Physics Education Group, A Perspective on Physics Education Research as a Guide to the Improvement of Instruction, Center for Physics Education, Department of Physics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Eric Mazur, Peer Instruction: a user's manual, Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall, 1997.

McDermott, Lillian C., Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, Physics by Inquiry, Volume II, New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996

Lillian C. McDermott with Peter S. Shaffer and Mark L. Rosenquist and the Physics Education Group University of Washington, Physics by inquiry : an introduction to physics and the physical sciences, New York : J. Wiley, 1996.

Gregor M. Novak, Evelyn T. Patterson, Andrew D. Gavrin, Wolfgang Christian, Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending Active Learning with Web Technology, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1999

Redish, Edward F., Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

Elaine Seymour and Nancy M. Hewitt, Talking about leaving : why undergraduates leave the sciences, Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1997.

Tobias, Sheila, They're not dumb, they're different : stalking the second tier, Tucson, Ariz. : Research Corp., 1990.

Sheila Tobias and Jacqueline Raphael, The hidden curriculum : faculty-made tests in science, New York : Plenum Press, 1997.

Tobias, Sheila, Revitalizing undergraduate science : why some things work and most don't, Tucson, Ariz. : Research Corp., 1992.

The Interactive Learning Toolkit, Martin Vogt and Eric Mazur , Phys. Teach., 43, 398-398 (2005). DOI

Lab Development:

AAPT Committee on Apparatus for Educational Institutions, Apparatus for lecture demonstrations in introductory physics courses, Collier, New York.

Daryl W. Preston and Eric R. Dietz, The art of experimental physics, New York: Wiley, 1991

Bohren, Craig, F., Clouds in a glass beer: simple experiments in atmospheric physics; forward by Jearl Warlker, New York: Wiley, 1987.

Franklin, Bill, Teaching about Color and Color Vision, College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers, 1996 (The AAPT has a whole series of intro lab books pitched at a fairly low level. See Suzanne Amador Kane for some more entries, or visit the AAPT website.)

David R. Sokoloff, Ronald K. Thornton, Priscilla W. Laws, RealTime physics : active learning laboratories, Publisher New York : Wiley, c1999

David R. Sokoloff, Priscilla W. Laws, Ronald K. Thornton, RealTime physics : active learning laboratories : electric circuits, Eugene, OR : Department of Physics, University of Oregon, 1997.


Robert Ehrlich, Turning the world inside out and 174 other simple physics demonstrations, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Robert Ehrlich, Why Toast Lands Jelly Side Down, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Classroom Demonstrations: Learning Tools or Entertainment?, Catherine H. Crouch, Adam P. Fagen, John Paul Callan and Eric Mazur
Am. J. Phys., 72, 835-838 (2004). DOI

Jearl Walker, The Flying Circus of Physics, rinceton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990.

See Suzanne Amador Kane for the Exploratorium Snackbook series, based on exhibits at the popular San Francisco science museum.

Other Resources is a web site maintained by the American Association of Physics Teachers. It has a Resource Center, Demo of the Month, Problem of the Month, Toy of the Month and many other useful features. This site can be helpful to you in generating ideas for your exam problems and new demo.

This website maintained by Suzanne Amador Kane.