Spring 2012

PHYS 105: Concepts of the Physical World

Richard Gelderman                                                                                     (270) 745-6203

Dept. of Physics & Astronomy                                     richard.gelderman@wku.edu

230 Thompson Complex, Central Wing                http://astro.wku.edu/gelderman/


Spring 2012 Course Calendar

Catalog Description: A one-semester introduction to the concepts of physics for students planning to teach in elementary and middle schools. Topics include structure and properties of matter, mechanics, electricity, magnetism, heat, light and sound. Laboratory experiments are an integral part of this course.


General Education: Successful completion of PHYS 105 fulfills 3 credit hours toward WKU's General Education Requirement in Category DL. In particular, after completing this course the student will have an understanding of the scientific method and knowledge of natural science and its relevance in our lives. This understanding will be assessed at the end of the semester.


Course Goals and Philosophy: PHYS 105 is designed to serve the needs of pre-service elementary and middle grade teachers. From a belief that science is for all students and that learning science is an active process, we have made a conscious choice to:

1. structure PHYS 105 without lecture, but as series of open-ended, hands-on activities that teach science the way that science should be taught in P-8 grades;

2. use Physics By Inquiry, by Lillian McDermott and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, rather than a traditional physics textbook;

3. cover only a few topics in physics, instead of all topics related to the P-8 physical science core content.

     In other words, this will be a lab-based course that emphasizes the process of science over specific physics content knowledge. PHYS 105 will provide an intense emphasis on two important, often misinterpreted, foundations of physics – properties of matter (such as mass, volume, and density) and the basics of electric circuits. Studies of learning show that students who manage to truly understand and master a few topics are able to easily extend this knowledge to other topics. In addition, studies indicate that a deep focus on a few topics increases the likelihood that the student will develop or maintain good attitudes toward science.

     This class will require your active participation. Unlike the typical science text, the Physics By Inquiry activities do not provide a list of facts, definitions, or explanations of reasoning. Instead these steps must be provided by the student. Your instructor will try to guide you thru challenging steps in the process, but will typically not tell you the answers directly. At times it may seem frustrating to have your questions answered with questions; however, this is the essence of active mental engagement and is essential to scientific discovery.


Required Text:  Physics By Inquiry, Lilian McDermott & the U. Washington Physics Education Research Group, Volumes I & II, 1996, J.Wiley & Sons. (ISBN#0471-548707)


Required Supplies:  splash-proof chemistry safety goggles and a 1.5-inch 3-ring binder for lab notebook

Recommended Texts:

Conceptual Physics, 10th ed., P. Hewitt, 2005, Addison-Wesley (ISBN#0805-391908)

Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, 2000, National Research Council, National Academy of Science Press (ISBN#0309-064767)

National Science Education Standards, 1996, National Research Council, National Academy of Science Press (ISBN#0309-053269)



100      Daily Lab Notebook entries (total of scores for 35 scheduled labs)

  25      Participation and Group work (determined by instructor at end of semester)

  45      Homework problems and take-home exercises (total of scores on all assignments)

  55      Quick Quizzes (total of ten quiz scores)

  50      1st midterm exam

  50      2nd midterm exam

  75      Final examination

400     TOTAL points toward course grade


Letter   Minimum            Letter   Minimum             Letter   Minimum           Letter   Minimum

Grade   Point Total          Grade   Point Total          Grade   Point Total          Grade   Point Total

    A        360                     B          320                      C         280    p;                 D          240


Attendance:  Prompt attendance is required for every class meeting. Almost all work required for this class occurs during the scheduled meeting time, missing a class put you and your group at a disadvantage. A missed notebook entry, quiz or exam will be scored as zero.


Schedule: The course meets each week for 80 minutes on Tuesday, 55 minutes on Wednesday, and 80 minutes on Thursday. A tentative calendar is available online.

Examinations:  Two tests will be given, covering assignments from the Physics By Inquiry text. The exam format is based on the daily lab activities; but all work on the exams will be independent with a strict time limit. No makeup tests will be given without prior arrangement.


Quick Quizzes:  Every few class periods you will be given a short quiz worth 5 points each. These may or may not be announced. Absolutely no makeup quizzes will be given.


Homework Problems and Out-of-Class Assignments:  A number of exercises from the Physics By Inquiry text will be assigned as out of class assignments. Additionally, there will be a few homework problems assigned from other sources. The most important part of these assignments is your explanation as to why you believe your answer is correct. Correct facts are not as important as being able to express clear thinking. These will be due at the beginning of class on the next class period (unless a later due date is given). Students not in class when the assignment is given may submit their response, but no extension on the due date will be given.


Student Lab Notebook:  Each class meeting, as you work through the activities from the text, you will record what you do as you do it. In your lab notebook you will write down the answers to all direct questions, exercises, and problems. In addition, you will keep a record of your observations and personal reflections on how your understanding is evolving. At the end of each class meeting you should include a summary section of what was learned, and what issues are still confusing to you.

     Your notes must be legible, organized, and dated. The entire three-ring binder must be available for grading at the instructor's request. You may find it is useful to have both pens and pencils available for your entries, and both graph and lined notebook paper for your notebook.

     Each day's activities will be graded on a 3-point scale. All three-points will be awarded for entries that clearly demonstrate all assigned activities were completed; with responses that exhibit clear and well reasoned thinking; and, with meaningful reflection included. Two-points will be awarded for completion of most activities; acceptable documentation of your thought processes; and some attempt at reflection. Excessive sloppiness or missing components will earn only one-point. No points will be awarded for an absence, though that does not absolve a student from making up the work at a later date.


Group Work and Academic Integrity:  Throughout this semester, all of your in-class time will be spent working in groups. Cooperation with your classmates is mandatory in this class. Discussing and explaining physical concepts with your peers should provide you with a higher level of understanding. You will be graded on your ability to work in a group. At the end of the end of the semester, the instructor will assign a score for the participation and group work component of the course grade. This grade will be a subjective assessment, such that average or normal participation and cooperation is worth 25 points with better (or worse) work resulting in more (or fewer) points. The highest scores will be given to those who play well with others, maintain a strong focus, and share the responsibility for learning. There will be opportunities to change lab partners, though everyone is expected to make the best of each situation. If reasonable attempts fail to resolve a problem with your group, please discuss the incompatibility with the instructor.

     Given the above policy, everything submitted for grade must be your own work. After your group discusses an assignment, you must write it up by yourself. Everything recorded in your lab notebook and on out of class assignments must either be your own words, or be clearly attributed to the original source. No credit will be given for work that is not demonstrably your own.


Students with Disabilities:  Students with disabilities who require accomodations (academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids or services) for this course must contact the Office for Student Disability Service, DUC A201, (270) 745-5004, 745-3030/TTY. Please do not request accomodations directly from the professor without a letter from the office of Student Disability Services.