Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Help me think through a "physics praxis prep" course

If you were overseeing an independent study course where the explicit goal was to discuss and learn content that would typically be covered in the praxis exam for physics content knowledge, how would you structure the course? The course meets 2 hours per week and is targeted at physics majors who are in MTSU's physics teaching concentration

Obviously, we want students to be positioned to pass the exam, but I don't want to turn the course into a "test prep" course. Of course, these are physics majors who should know some physics pretty well, but as I see it, the exam covers a lot of content. Much of the content, students will likely have encountered before. Other content, they might have only gotten cursory experiences with or perhaps none at all. Even for content that's been covered, it doesn't mean they know it well.

If you are curious to know what's covered on the Praxis, here is some information on the multiple-choice exam and on the content essays

So where do we focus our efforts?... I think it's hard for me to make blind assumptions about what these students will need. So, I imagine a good way to decide how and where to start is based on a some assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. I could imagine asking students to rank their confidence in various topics, and then administer some assessment along those topics. We could then use their confidence rankings and the assessment as the start of a conversation for where we need to focus our learning efforts.

But what would I have students do? I think, too, that will depend on (1) how many topics areas students are going to need development in, and (2) how many students I have in the course.

Anyway, as I'm thinking this through, I'm curious to get ideas from anyone and everyone.

4 comments:

  1. Is this a semester-long course? If so, I think you can really help students see the holistic connections among many (all?) of the topics.

    I teach several short courses for people looking to get their physics teaching license and some of them want it to be "teaching to the test." I don't oblige but rather do the holistic thing. Speed through the content actually helps a little there.

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  2. It is a semester long course. It says it is independent study–I'd assume that status quo would be something where students are given some structure in which to work on problems, share with each other, and get help from me as needed.

    Can you say more about what you mean by holistic connections?

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  3. Mostly I mean that there are underlying physics principles for most applications. Something like the approach that the "6 ideas . . ." text uses. I favor this because I've watched people cram for exams like these where they separately memorize v=f lambda, lambda=v/f, and f=v/lambda. That's an exaggeration, of course, but I hope you know what I mean.

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  4. When I studied for the math praxis I think I took a practice exam and then used that to identify where I needed to focus my efforts. They probably have practice exams for physics too.

    I'm trying to remember if I had any useful strategies for studying for the Physics exam...not coming up with anything off the top of my head.

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