Innovative Pedagogy for University Physics

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Studies of undergraduate STEM education have shown that students need to be actively engaged in the learning process in order for it to be effective. A passive lecture environment (“teaching by telling”) has been shown to be largely ineffective in developing students’ skills in critical thinking and problem solving. Yet despite the abundant data indicating the shortcomings of the conventional lecture format, this continues to be the instructional mode that is prevalent in most institutions. With the advent of this new Thematic Group, we plan to address these issues with the hope of promoting active learning as a preferred method of instruction for physics at the university level.


Within the framework of this GTG, we envision covering the following objectives:

  • Identify a variety of active-learning pedagogical methodologies that have been proven to be effective at the university level
  • Explore specific institutional settings where such innovative techniques could be implemented with the potential for improved student learning
  • Solicit participant institutions (and enthusiastic instructors) who are willing and able to investigate the efficacy of these techniques through local pilot programs
  • Discuss various approaches for an in-depth assessment of these methods in order to provide semi-quantitative results
  • Identify current practitioners of such innovative techniques who can serve as speakers for seminars/colloquia, or who can serve as consultants in new implementations of such methods
  • Brainstorm for finding other avenues for increased dissemination of these best practices in physics teaching
  • Consider issues related to scalability of these active-learning techniques with a particular focus on large enrollments and institutional infrastructure
  • Recruit new members for the Thematic Group in order to achieve extensive reach for promotion of these innovative methodologies within institutions

By promoting greater innovation in university-level physics pedagogy via this GTG, we believe that there are subsidiary benefits for GIREP — this has the potential to increase the scope and reputation of GIREP throughout the broader Physics Education community. Some points are outlined below:

  • Arrange focused symposia at GIREP meetings and other international conferences in order to disseminate widely the activities of this Thematic Group
  • Organize hands-on workshops to demonstrate novel techniques to instructors who have a specific interest in implementing these methods in their own classrooms.
  • Build up a closely connected community within GIREP that shares experiences, findings and reflections.
  • Develop a strong reputation for GIREP as an advocate of innovative pedagogy that can have decision-making power and can exert influence

GIREP members who are interested in participating in this GTG should contact the co-organizers: Gerald Feldman (George Washington University) or Guillaume Schiltz (ETH Zürich).