I have to say it. Modeling physics is !@#$! HARD. Don’t get me wrong. It is so worth the struggle to see students form connections, think their way through a problem, and actually understand a new idea in a simple intuitive way, but getting there really requires a long time, hard work, and lost of patience.
Frank Noschese, has a wonderful quote by Richard Feynman on his post about pseudo-teaching :
“I think, however, that there isn’t any solution to this problem of education other than to realize that the best teaching can be done only when there is a direct individual relationship between a student and a good teacher—a situation in which the student discusses the ideas, thinks about the things, and talks about the things.”
My challenge is actually getting the students to do it without having to have every step scripted.
There are certain processes that I want to be automatic:
- Students should always compile a data table
- Students should always plot the data, and if it is linear get the slope and the intercept
- Students should always state the units of all variables and constants in their linear equation
- Students should explain in clear language what the slope and the intercept mean
What I am finding is that the students just do not seem to want to take this risk. Perhaps I need to let there be more awkward silence as we work. I am not entirely sure how I want to finish up the buggy lab.
My approach was done in three parts
1) Part 1 – Get the speed any way you can
2) Part 2- Have the buggy move forward and get a plot, and equation, and explain it
3) Part 3 – Run the buggy in the reverse direction starting from a positive position.
What I hope students get out of this lab are the following insights
- The slope is the speed of the buggy
- The sign of the slope is the direction the buggy travels
- The y-intercept is the initial position of the buggy
- The steeper the slope the faster the buggy moves
- The plot of a stationary buggy at a non-zero position should be a flat line above or below the x-axis
- A negative y – intercept means that the equation “thinks” that the intial position of the buggy is behind the ruler.
- The above discrepancy can be explained by determining sources of error
This kind of thinking is not simple, and I have realized there is so much more to this than just plotting a line and doing worksheet problems.
I have decided to guide the students through this lab as well. My fear is that I am not letting them make enough mistakes. However I feel that they are still a little lost in the modeling classroom as am I, to a certain extent.