Making Better Connections in Physics
Jan 07, 2013
Studio physics is an interactive way of learning science, and thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, Concordia is bringing studio physics to campus.
With studio, students experience a seamless integration between lecture and lab. Faculty briefly lecture at the start of the class period, and then students work in groups of three or four either to solve problems or do experiments that are integrated with the lecture.
Each group of students works with its own equipment and materials and records data on a dedicated laptop.
“In contrast to the lecture style where students observe the instructor doing an experiment, here students do the work themselves,” says Dr. Luiz Manzoni, assistant professor. “We feel it’s the best way to teach physics.”
Extensive research shows this method improves students’ ability to retain what they learn, Manzoni says.
“We’re seeing our students are ahead of the curve in test results, and we’re seeing that they have a much better understanding of the material,” says Manzoni.
Manzoni says this method has been well established but requires an extensive initial expenditure for resources, equipment and computers. Receiving the NSF grant, which was written by physics professor Dr. Heidi Manning, enabled the department to launch studio classes.
“No question, studio encourages more student engagement,” says Manzoni. “Students can devise their own method to measure an experiment, and there’s more time for discussion at the same time that they are working on the experiment. We’re not giving them a recipe to follow. Students are actively doing the problem-solving.”
Manzoni says he enjoys studio teaching.
“Students are not afraid to ask questions, and there’s much more discussion in class,” he says. “It’s more fun to teach.”
The physics department will expand studio to four classes next year, including all the introductory physics classes.