Newbury and Kate Wilson and the workshop tutorial manuals.
of Physics at the University of New South Wales has been part
of a successful collaborative CUTSD funded project to develop
Workshop Tutorials for first year physics students. The collaboration
included 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 project was completed in 2002 with the production of a 3
volume set comprising two volumes of workshop tutorials and an
activity resource manual. The books contain a total of over 150
tutorials suitable for first year physics courses. An accompanying
CD containing all the material as both Word and pdf files is included
so that lecturers can easily browse through the books, then cut
and paste questions and solutions to customize their own tutorials
to suit their own courses.
The advantage 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 learning it.
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.
The Workshop Tutorial books are published by Uniserve Science,
and as a CUTSD funded project, they are freely available to all
Australian Universities, with distribution taking place early
in 2003. Workshop tutorials will be used with students enrolled
in PHYS1111 (Fundamentals of Physics), PHYS1279 (Civil Engineering)
and PHYS1250 (Industrial Design) in 2003 at UNSW.