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A feeling I’ve had before…

January 31, 2012

In my teaching of Physics Class, we read chapter 2 of Aron’s Teaching Introductory Physics. As part of a reflection on that reading, I asked students to give a verbal interpretation of instantaneous velocity, much in the same way Aron’s gave a verbal interpretation for Average Velocity.

Here is what I got:

 

I think that “a velocity an object has at a given instant in time” works fine. Perhaps there’s more that I’m missing?

Instantaneous velocity is looking at a specific position that we have matched with our clock reading, and if we look at this instant, it’s the velocity that we would need to have for this object to be in this position from our arbitrary starting point.

Instantaneous velocity is the velocity of an object per unit time, such as speedometer reads.

Instantaneous velocity is the velocity of an object at a given clock reading. It is the rate of an object’s change in position at that time interval, and it represents that the velocity the object would have if the acceleration stopped at that point.

Instantaneous velocity is simply the velocity of an object at an exact time–the amount of distance covered in a given time segment if the speed were constant and acceleration zero.

Instantaneous velocity is how far an object would go in one second assuming that it didn’t change velocity.

 

It’s a mixed bag here, as to be expected… But I’m getting the creeping feeling this that is a sign of bigger things that really transcend the particular question and the particular responses. And I know I’ve felt this way before. See, last spring, when I was teaching an Learning Assistants course, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t teach a “science pedagogy” course well without doing some science with the LAs. So, last spring I changed things up at some point, and we began spending half our time doing science, and then half our time talking about the science we were doing in light of the readings we were doing. In the LA class, I might have gone too far toward the side of doing science (in feedback, several students told me the pedagogy course was the best science course they’ve ever taken), but I don’t necessarily think that was a bad thing.

So, I think am reaching the same conclusion about this physics teaching course. I question, How I can teach a teaching physics course when students haven’t experienced (what I would see as) meaningful and transformative engagement with their own physics learning? I also think, that even if they had come in with such learning experiences, it would still be worthwhile to do some physics together, so that that common experience can become a thing we can point to in our immediate and shared lives. But how, and how much, and when? Maybe these are thoughts for another semester… or maybe they’re not.

 

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