Physics Student Journal Club

Unfortunately the web conferencing software we use is suffering an outage tonight (3/12) so we’re postponing this discussion until next week (3/19).

Upcoming weeks:

  • 3/19 Rescheduled Physics Student Journal Club
  • 3/26 Eugenia Etkina talking about her new general physics textbook
  • 4/2 Gerry Ruch: Urban telescope at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul MN

Tom Jordan: QuarkNet

Tom told us about the history and future of QuarkNet. We talked about the value to both the researchers and the teachers involved. It was interesting to hear about their efforts to build a community of physics educators.

Here’s the recording.

This week (Wednesday 3/12 at 9:30pm ET) we’ll be doing our first physics student journal club. The paper we’ve chosen is entitled “Optimal pacing for running 400m and 800m track races” by Jim Reardon (who will be joining us). If you’re interested, encourage your students to join us, or have them send along any questions to Andy Rundquist (

Eric Mazur: New general physics textbook

Eric talked with us about the format, design, implementation, and philosophy issues he and his collaborators dealt with when writing the new book. He talked about how conservation theorems are front and center in the book and he shared new approaches to teaching collisions and energy.

Here’s the recording.

There is no meeting this week. Join us next week (3/26) when we host Tom Jordan to talk about QuarkNet.

New initiatives: physics student journal club and student simulations

Physics Student Journal Club
Last week we met to brainstorm what a Physics Student Journal Club might look like. We decided that we’d give this a try:

  • Pick an article
    • Accessible (both logistically and content-wise)
    • By someone we might cajole into joining our conversations
    • Has conclusions that can be critically analyzed (so not just a report about some new cool thing)
  • Have teachers commit to having their students read it and contribute to a wiki of sorts to see how others are struggling/thinking about the article.
  • Commit a Global Physics Department night to a general conversation about the paper

So here’s the plan. We’ve selected a paper entitled “Optimal pacing for running 400m and 800m track races” by James Reardon (that’s the ArXiv link so it’s accessible to everyone), who we will reach out to. We’ll schedule March 12 for our first try of a meeting.

Physics Student Simulations
We’re going to start a new category on our blog site ( to collect student simulations. They’ll provide both artifacts (movies, plots, etc) and a description. For this month the prompt is: True or False: electrons released from rest always follow trajectories that follow electric field lines.

Submissions should be emailed to Andy Rundquist (first name dot last name at gmail).

Here’s the recording of our meeting.

Join us this week as we host Eric Mazur to talk about his new introductory physics text that is centered around conservation theorems.

Georg Rieger: 2 stage exams

Georg shared with us his experiences using two-stage exams. We talked about the impact to classroom climate, student learning, and instructor planning. Here’s a link to a recent article about it.

Here’s the recording.

Join us this week (1/29 at 9:30 pm ET) as we talk to people from Note that’s a change from the original plan to brainstorm a student physics journal club, which we’ll do the next week.

Sam Evans and Karin Kirk: climate change

Sam and Karin shared with us approaches and resources to use when talking about climate change with physics students. Sam talked about how he’s used climate as the context for introducing energy, indicating that his students were much more engaged. Karin shared her work with the CLEAN web site, which provides a searchable array of resources for teachers.

Here’s the recording.

We’re taking the next two weeks off. Happy Holidays, or, as my 7 year old has decided we should say: Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!

Bethany Wilcox and Danny Caballero: Math framework

Bethany and Danny talked with us about a framework they’ve developed to help assess how students in upper divisions physics courses use math. We talked about how hard it can be for an expert problem solver to articulate all the steps used, but that for a novice, it’s important to be able to see those. They shared different ways of posing questions to get students to use various tools. An example would be “Use Taylor’s series to . . .” vs “What is an approximation to the result around x= . . .”

Here’s the recording

This week (12/18) we’ll be talking about ways to teach about climate change with Sam Evans and Karin Kirk. Join us!

Student capstones

We spoke with eight different students about five different projects. They were on sliding cups, parallel springs, slingshot trajectories, hockey slap shots, and rotating chains. It was so great to hear them talk not only about their content and what they learned, but also about how a project helps them think about physics and science in general.

Here’s the recording.

This week (12/11 at 9:30pm ET) we’ll be talking with Bethany Wilcox about an upper-division math framework she’s been helping develop for physics major courses. Please join us!

Error Propagation

We talked about ways to teach error propagation, spending a fair amount of time bashing the significant figures approach. John Denker, the author of the article you were encouraged to read, joined us and has since updated the document in response to the great discussion.

Here’s the recording.

We’re now taking a two week break. We’ll be back on 12/4 with student capstone presentations. If you have any students who you think could give a short (5-10) minute presentation on a project of theirs, please let Andy ( know.