discussing a problem with Dr Krystyna Wilk during a workshop
The School of
Physics is part of a collaborative CUTSD funded project to develop
Workshop Tutorials for first year physics students. The collaboration
includes the University of Sydney, where the tutorials originated,
University of Western Sydney, the Australian Catholic University
and University of Technology Sydney. The project members at UNSW
are Dr Kate Wilson and A/Prof Richard Newbury.
The aim of the
project is to produce a set of tutorial worksheets and resources
for hands-on activities that could be used with any first year physics
course. The tutorial worksheets are being designed in two levels
an introductory level suitable for students in introductory
courses with little or no physics background and a regular
level for physics majors and other students with a good high school
physics background. In addition, the regular level sheets come in
two flavours biological/environmental and technological/applied.
A total of over 140 tutorials will be included in the final book.
tutorials have been trialled successfully at UNSW with optometry
students in session 1, and with building and industrial design students
in session 2, 2001. The workshops will be included in a greater
number of courses in 2002. The workshops are easy to insert into
existing courses, and require very little additional resources to
of the workshop tutorials over traditional tutorials is that they
actively engage the students. In a traditional tutorial many students
do little more than sit and copy what the tutor writes on the board.
This a very passive activity, and students learn very little from
these tutorials to learn to solve problems, they must solve
problems themselves. Teaching something is not the same as the students
In the workshop
tutorials the students work in small cooperative groups to solve
problems. They discuss the problem, argue with each other, and eventually
come to a consensus. By explaining their own understanding of the
problem and the relevant physics they clarify it for themselves.
This is of great value to the weaker students in the group, who
get an explanation from a peer in language that they can understand.
It is of even greater value to the student doing the explaining
the best way to learn something is to teach it. This encourages
deep learning, with the students being forced to grapple with concepts,
rather than rote learning a set of examples which they can repeat
on the exam.
also include simple hands-on activities, with a question or two
associated with each activity. This has two advantages the
students are given a concrete, often real world example
of the physics they are learning, and it breaks up the tutorial
somewhat, without having students lose focus on the physics. And
of course, the students can learn by doing.
the workshop tutorials has shown that students benefit from the
group work in the tutorials, with students commenting that being
forced to explain something made them realise that they didnt
actually understand it. They also appreciated the opportunity to
hear a range of explanations from group members. Students also singled
out the hands-on activities as helping them to understand the physics
being taught. In addition to encouraging learning, students enjoy
the workshops as one optometry student wrote on the evaluation
paper More of these please!