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Merging traditional lectures with inquiry based learning, active engagement, and peer lead learning techniques in upper undergraduate courses (PHYS 221 and PHYS 302).

The TAMU APPEAL Program merges parts of the Oregon State University Paradigms in Physics (PP) program, based on a new undergraduate junior level curriculum, with traditional curriculum standard upper-undergraduate Physics courses. The restructuring of courses merges new methodologies with effective aspects of the traditional lecture courses by:

  • Introducing inquiry based, peer lead active learning coupled with lectures. The 20-30 minute activities are conducted in small groups and span kinesthetic, visual and more mathematical based activities.
  • Introducing a higher level of mathematical sophistication closely coupled with introductory chapters of future advanced courses to ease the transition to upper division courses.
  • Emphasizing peer-learning interactions through brief, inquiry based group activities and using new testing methods, including individual and team based tests.
  • Maintaining student engagement during class through short answer small whiteboard questions.

Integration of these new educational techniques with traditional courses will facilitate implementation of improvements introduced by the Paradigms program into other institutions without the need for a major curriculum restructure. The PP and APPEAL programs address the shortcomings of traditional curricula courses at the sophomore and beginning junior level which, in most cases, fail to help students transition smoothly from a novice's basic step-wise approach to scientific learning to an expert's higher level of learning with multiple dimensions and connections among the different courses already covered.

To facilitate implementation of this program in other institutions we give here extensive explanations of the developed teaching methods merged within the lectures of the introductory PHYS 221 Waves and Optics course. These include Small White Board Prompts, Large White Board Group Activities, Computer Visualization activities, and Team Testing. We provide detailed instructions for each group activity and numerical activity used in PHYS 221 as well as extensive video of the lectures and activities.

Within the PHYS 302 Advanced Mechanics courses the techniques have been used mostly within the help

sessions in the way of Strategic Wind Sprints with Small Whiteboards and Pre-testing.