So, one of things we learn about in our learning assistant seminar regards different types of classroom discourse. We talk about IRE or triadic dialogue (Teacher Initiates with Question, Student responds with a short answer, and Teacher Evaluates the appropriateness of the answer). We also talk about alternative talk moves that can help move us toward more productive dialogue (e.g., probing, pressing, re-voicing, prompting for more participation, etc).

**Behavior: What a Teacher Says**

From a behavioral perspective, there are a few reflexive habits that can pull a teacher into an IRE type dialogue with a given student, even if it’s not necessarily their intent. One such reflex is to “praise” students. The student provides some answer which is deemed appropriate and a natural response can be to immediately say back “Great!”, “Good”, “Excellent!”. A desire to be encouraging combines with a lack of alternatives to create a strong pull into this type of discourse.

Knowing that new teachers are likely to have this habit, I find it important to have them practice and rehearse new talk moves, which can help override the praise reflex. I try to limit the new talk moves to 2 or 3 phrases that the teacher can over practice to the point of becoming habit. I usually pick variations of the following to start:

- “Can you say more about that?” (probing)
- “Can you tell everyone why that answer makes sense to you?” (pressing)
- “So ___ seems to be saying ____. Who would like to add on to what ___ said?” (re-voicing, and prompting for more participation).

Talk moves are important, as they provide model alternatives for students to practice. It gets them behaviorally orienting to a new way of responding. But behavior is not enough, because behavior is often driven by attention.

**Attention: What a Teacher Listens For**

Often what drives a teacher to enter in IRE dialogue is not just a reflex to some objective external stimuli, but rather it is a response based on how attentional resources are allocated.

For example, if a teacher is listening to student contributions by paying close attention to the correctness or appropriateness of the students’ responses, it is somewhat reasonable for the teacher to respond in a way that concerns its correctness. We might think of this as the teacher having some idealized response(s) in mind, and the teacher is listening to the students’ response to see how closely it matches these for not. If the response matches closely to the expected correct response, the teacher might say, “Great!”. If the response does not match, they might say, “Well, not quite,” or “That’s close, but…”. There are of course a variety of other more responses about appropriateness of the student responses that aim to be more or less encouraging, more or less neutral, or more or less discouraging.

From this perspective, it’s important to not just change the behavior of the teacher. What is important is to help them focus on different aspects of student talk. There are so many things a teacher can attend to in students responses, and I don’t want to get into all of them. For the very new (apprenticing) teacher, my goal is to help them listen to student contributions from the perspective of: “Do I understand what the student really means? Do I have a decent sense for what they are thinking? OR Did I not yet quite know what the student means, why they said what they did, and they are thinking?” Attending to student contributions from this perspective more naturally leads to following types of responses: If I don’t understand what the student means, I should ask them to either say more (e.g., probing) or ask them why they think that (e.g., pressing). If I do understand what the student means, I might test my hypothesis that I understand by re-voicing what they have said back to them. Of course, this way of attending to student thinking is inadequate for all the ways of a teacher must attend to student contributions, but it serves as the point, that how teachers are likely to respond is based on how attentional resources are allocated.

This requires a lot of practice and modeling–to help new teacher get a sense by what we even mean by “what the is student thinking”, and importantly what it feels like when you think you understand a students’ thinking.

**Emotion: How a Teacher Feels About What They Hear**

Attention is driven in part by emotional states. It is common for the new teacher to experience a pleasant emotional state when students say correct things and to experience some level of discomfort when students say incorrect things. If a new teacher’s own emotional state is strongly impacted by the correctness of student contributions, it makes sense to allocate attentional resources on the correctness of student thinking. If the contribution is correct, the reward center of the teacher’s brain is activated. If the contribution is incorrect, the teacher experiences activation in the pain center of their Brain, and they act to alleviate this pain by perhaps correcting or quickly leading the student to a correct answer.

A second layer that exists is this– students that are used to being immediately praised or corrected, feel discomfort when they are not immediately praised or corrected due to the fact that they don’t know where they stand. Teachers can pick up on their students’ discomfort and themselves feel uncomfortable about their students’ discomfort. The teacher and the student will act together to alleviate everyone’s discomfort. Thus, the teacher and the student may steer the Dialogue toward IRE as a quick way to alleviate each other’s internal suffering.

From this perspective, if we want to change the teacher’s attention (i.e., how they listen and what they listen for), we need to help the teacher change how they feel about student responses–how their own emotions are regulated when they hear students respond and to even change how and when the brain’s reward center get activated.

In order for the emotional states to act as an appropriate guide, we need the teacher to experience pleasant emotional states when they do understand what the students are thinking, and we need the teacher to experience mild discomfort when they don’t understand what the students are thinking (either because they have too little information or they don’t yet understand the meaning of the information they do have). Again, this description is not the totality of what changes will be needed to emotional regulation, but it’s a decent first step.

**Community: How a Community Shapes What a Teacher Values**

I find myself now trying to work with new teachers at all three levels. Over-rehearsing new talk moves so as to break reflexive habits, modeling and practicing attending to student thinking, and providing experiences where getting access to student thinking is tied to activation of pleasant emotional states. I think at first I focused on the second (attending to student thinking), but didn’t emphasize enough the moves that make it possible. Later I focused more on the talk moves, thinking that it would generate attention on the right kinds of things. That doesn’t quite work either. My later efforts at combining training in the use of talk moves with training in attending to and interpreting student thinking were more successful, but still inadequate. Without attention to emotional regulation and positive emotional experiences with both the process and outcome of teaching this way, students were very vulnerable to relapse into unproductive dialogue. Put into the actual classroom, they would revert largely because the underlying emotional states that drive the unproductive behavior were likely to be triggered when they take on full responsibility for teaching a class by themselves (without enough support).

To a large degree, change at all three levels is only likely to happen when new teachers are entering a community in which these three are actually happening; there are

- different ways of talking to students that are made visible and explicit,
- practices of attending to student that are visible and explicit, and
- varied opportunities exist to experience positive feelings associated with these two

Associating positive feelings can be worked at from a variety of vantage points. New teachers need to spent time in fun, exciting, challenging classrooms where students ideas are shared and valued creates pleasant experiences. The process of being in those classrooms can be stimulating and fun in a way that promotes change to emotional conditioning. That said, since early teachers’s current reward centers are still tied to “correctness”, new teachers need to see how the visibility of student thinking in the classroom actually helps with learning.

I should add it can be somewhat counterproductive when emotional associations are too strongly tying rewards to solely the visibility of student thinking. A classroom where student thinking is visible is necessary for this kind of teaching and learning to occur, but it is not the end goal in itself. I have made the error myself and witnessed teaching errors where a teacher can be too emotionally attached to the visbility student ideas, and as a result, student thinking isn’t leveraged meaningfully to make progress in learning. Of course, we want to the visibility of student thinking to be rewarding, but it should also feel disconcerting if that visibility of student thinking isn’t then being used to enhance learning. While early teachers’ understanding of learning outcomes may solely be tied to correctness, we can work on expanding their notion of learning later. For that reason, I want my earliest apprenticing students to experience these kinds of classroom, where they can see both the beginning process and ending products.

There’s lots more to say, but I’m done writing for now…

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One of the changes our new curriculum requires of instructors is a shifted vision of what sophisticated problem-solving can look like.

I’m not sharing this particular photo of student work necessarily because it’s exemplary. Rather, it’s a good boundary case– I see evidence for sophisticated problem-solving and I also see what are often seen as traditional markers of immature problem solving.

I notice that students write the equation for gravitational potential energy as U = gmh. This is non-standard and so stands out to me. When they use this equation, they include units, and their final expression has units appropriate for energy.

I notice that the students do not write an explicit energy conservation equation. Rather they bracket the two gravitational potential energies and find the difference.

It suggests to me that they know that energy differences matter, and that perhaps they are thinking in terms of energy transformation (and perhaps less so explicitly as energy as a constant).

They set this energy difference equal to an expression for kinetic energy. They drop some units during the mathematical work, but include final correct units upon determining the speed.

They later use this speed in an equation to calculate the net force, this too includes units, some that look like they were squeezed in afterward.

This net force value makes its way to an arrow next to a free body diagram. The free body diagram is drawn, with Tension force drawn longer than weight. They then make use of known value for weight and net force to calculate the Tension.

As with energy having no explicit algebraic statement of conservation, the students write no explicit algebraic statement for Newton’s 2nd Law or for the sum of forces.

Traditional markers of sophisticated solutions value explicit algebraic statements of big ideas– energy conservation, Newton’s 2nd Law. We do not see that here. What is also valued at times is prowess at algebraic manipulation. Here we see calculations done piece meal.

Students use equations to calculate intermediate values. How many joules? How fast? What net force? None of these intermediate calculations are big ideas: “potential energy”, “kinetic energy”, and “centripetal force.”

Big ideas are instantiated arithmetically–considering a difference in potential energies to determine a quantity of kinetic energy. Arithmetic reasoning about relationship between individual forces and net force.

One of things I’ve come around to seeing in students’ work is this– I look for evidence that they are organizing their work around the big ideas.

The traditional view mostly looks for that evidence in the limited places, especially for the new learner, and thus often misses sophistication when it appears. And inadvertently, such limited looking can end up encouraging the opposite of one intends. Mindless equation use.

One of the ways to see students work here not as mindless equation Work is this. is the following. It is true that Students do not seem to use equations to express big ideas. Rather, I would suggest that students use equations as a means to get into the world of big ideas. As such, we see that they know how to reason about concepts like forces and energy, and are adept at enacting such reasoning when they have concrete values with which to reason. They sometimes use representations like the FBD to help organize how to do that arithmetic thinking. The equations are a tool that gets them a concrete handle in to the world thinking about forces and energy.

I can see this also in how they use or don’t use equations that are old and more familiar vs new and unfamiliar.

Students actually don’t even write an equation for relating mass and weight, like W = mg. Rather, they just write m = 200 g, and W = 2N. This unit prefix change and calculation is familiar to them , since they learned it months ago. I see their fluency with this and presumed fluency of others as making sense with them not showing this explicitly.

Students write the energy expression for potential energy in their own way, with the “g” as the leading variable. This equation helps remind them of what information is needed and how to put it together. Energy was learned weeks ago, and so has undergone some revisions. They use this equation fluidly with units as they calculate, even converting length prefixes from cm to m without much ado.

Circular motion, however, is our most recent topic and the equation for centripetal force that they write takes on the exact form it was presented to them. They plug numbers in first and go back and add the units later. This makes sense to me with their having less familiarity. It’s like right now This an equation that is strictly for a calculation process, one they have not yet internalized. Yet the result of that process (net force) they seem to what it tells them and how to proceed with that information.

Part of this could be that I’m not pressing students to work at a sufficient level of abstraction. It could be that I’m allowing them (too safely) to work concretely with these big ideas. As I see it, I’m getting them to actually learn the big ideas using skills with which they can actually be thinking about the big ideas. My students can do mathematical sense making, but it more likely to take place with concrete values. Often for new learners, the push for algebraic abstraction suppresses thinking about the big ideas. And so I’m somewhat happy with the balance, but I know that it is also true that I should be looking for fruitful ways to stretch that understanding into uncomfortable territory. We do explore that boundary some, but probably not enough for certain populations of student who need that.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the evening.

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We’ve been playing around with circuit representations this semester… the first two were really helpful for students in clarifying and connecting certain concepts.

The third was done later to orient drops in potentials as vertical descents. It’s making me think about how I can more explicitly link potential in circuits with gravitational potential contour lines.

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I’m not quite ready to stray really far from what Knight supports (since I like the class to be coherent across class and text); so, although I like IF momentum charts (from modeling), I’m thinking more of cycling back to velocity vs. time graphs more strongly and adding momentum vs. time graphs.

Something like this:

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Revised Prompts :

**Round 1: **Hand out just the motion diagram, description, and list of initial values. Have students sort the cards into matches

**Round 2: **Add the graphs to the mix, and have students complete the matches.

**Round 3: **Ask students to use the graphs to determine the time of flight and horizontal distance traveled. Compare and contrast the three cases. Which one spent the most time, least time? Why? Which on traveled the most distance? Why?

**Round 4: **Add equations into the mix, and have students complete the matches.

**Round 5: **Ask students how they can find time of flight and horizontal distance from the equations (rather than graph). Explain what is similar / different about using graphs vs. equations.

**Round 6: **Take away the graphs (or flip them over), and ask students to see if they can determine the time to maximum height and the value of maximum height from the equations. Check answers against graphs. If they get stuck, have them go back to graphs. Compare and contrast cases: Which one go the highest? Why?

**Round 7: **With graphs back in mix, ask to find the speed of the ball at it’s highest point. Compare and contrast. Which was moving fastest at its highest point? Why? Which one slowest why?

**Round 8**: Ask students to find the final speed (just before hitting ground). Compare and contrast? How did the final speeds compare? Why?

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Before doing circuits we did a review activity to help us retrieve information in our minds, seek our relationships, notice gaps in our understanding, and ask questions. With all new concepts, a lot of students were confusing units with algebraic symbols. We also needed to talk about difference between general cases vs point charge specific cases. Students had lots of good questions about cause of charge, electric field, and electric potential energy. We clarified a lot about connection between potential and potential energy.

In physics one we finished up our introduction to energy and cycled back to kinematics to examine free fall. I like holding off on freefall until after students have forces, impulse, and energy under their belts. Students can make sense of what we do and don’t mean by free fall, can productively grapple with why acceleration is same for all masses, and have better hooks for what we do and don’t mean by initial and final velocity.

Here is some data we collected for a bouncy ball, using a Vernier motion detector to calculate kinetic and potential energies.

Next year I’d like to design a coherent lesson around these graphs. So many cool things to notice and ask questions about.

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I’m writing about this because I’d like to

(1) be more explicit about calling out of student bashing behavior when it is done in a casual manner or in a vicious / callous manner. I think in these cases directly calling it out is a decent option. I should try to remain calm but firm, while trying not to sound holier than thou. Maybe an impossible balance, but I have and probably will engage in some form of student bashing, so I need to learn to callout the behavior, not the person.

(2) on the flip side, be more accepting of the big feelings that can behind student bashing. These can include feelings of powerlessness, vulnerability, despair, resignation, self-loathing, and culpability as much as they can also be about frustration, anger, indignation, and resentment.

I’d like to be better at redirecting the student bashing toward a recognition and acceptance of those feelings, rather than my normal response which is to redirect the bashing toward another victim.

Student bashing can, I think, be a cry out for sympathy or assurance. I can be a better colleague by responding with sympathy and assurance about these feelings without sympathizing with nor assuring the student bashing.

I can say, “I too am a teacher. I too am powerless.”

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First: impulsive forces

Investigating impulsive forces–factors that effect peak force and duration. We us force sensors and change factors like mass, speed, bumper stiffness in collisions with a wall.

We then introduce and practice with impulse and change in momentum, both with sensors and logger pro and by hand. Clicker questions, ranking tasks, and a problem to determine the impulse and peak force of a baseball bat on a base ball.

Second: Collisions

Investigating elastic collisions comes first. Doing this helps conceptualize the process as momentum transfer. We start with equal masses. All the momentum is transferred. We then look at cases where some but not all of the momentum is transferred, and finally when more momentum is transferred than one had to begin with.

After observing and discussing qualitatively, we get quantitative, but I don’t have students predict anything. We observe and analyze it in terms of momentum, for the purpose of determining how much momentum was transferred. We draw before during after diagrams.

At end, we see that the momentum of each system is constant, and I introduce concept of an isolated system We look at explosions next as another example of isolated systems that starts with zero momentum. Students analyze mock explosion data and sort them into possible and impossble explosions. A little bit of neutrino history gets sprinkled in here.

Finally we look at Inelastic collisions, and this is the first time students use momentum conservation to make predictions. Studnets predict final velocity, but then must also determine how much momentum was transferred. Doing so involved practice shifting perspective, from system to individual objects.

Many times people start with Inelastic collisions, but I think that’s a mistake. While you can calculate easily, it obscures transfer. Elastic better promotes transfer idea I think.

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The most confusing thing about Newtons’ third law is that action and reaction forces occur simultaneously at the same time. How do they happen at the same time?

It is interesting how static friction is greater than kinetic friction. Thus, explaining why it is easier to keep a box moving than it is to start it moving.

I like seeing that the problems build off things we already learned. We have to incorporate kinematics into force problems so it keeps me from forgetting things and also shows me the big picture of why we learned it in the first place.

The topic I found most interesting the acceleration on an inclined plane as its interesting in splitting up the weight into two forces and being able to calculate the acceleration with trigonometry. I like to be able to really see how trigonometry can work in real situations such as calculating acceleration as in Figure 3.23.

The most interesting to me is Newton’s Second Law and I think the reason why is because it makes sense and I understand it!

The interesting part of the reading and the example problems and sections is how all of what we have learned in the reading before is found in almost every problem in order to work it out.I think its interesting how there is always a Free body diagram used in almost all problems and how there is always acceleration and velocity in every problem. Its interesting to see Newtons laws applied to every problem done in class and seen in the examples.

I still find it fascinating how the concepts all come together like a big puzzle. I understand why some higher level math is important to learn before getting involved in the concepts in physics. It is like building a car engine. Without all the pieces the engine may not make the car run, but with all the pieces perfectly aligned the engine will be amazing for the car.

The most interesting thing that I found in the assigned reading was the fact if a cart was going down a ramp and suddenly the incline vanished, the cart would experience free fall. I guess I just never genuinely thought about what would happen if you were to take away that angle.

I find it interesting that when an object is on an incline, we can change the x and y axis to match the incline.

The topic that I found that was most interesting was the use of trigonometry in physics. I find it interesting that all of this stuff go well together and that 3 +4 can equal 5.

Realizing that the combine force of the tension force and the normal needed to equal the weight force. For the group problem in class on Thursday, I initially thought that we could find normal force by using the Pythagorean theorem to find the numerical value for normal force. However, one of the group members explained that since the normal force arrow and the tension force arrow would not form a triangle therefore the Pythagorean theorem could not be used to find normal force. To calculate normal force we had to subtract the tension force from the weight force.

The topic that I found most interesting was one of the topics I found to be most confusing, which was the elevator scenario and its sensations. It is interesting to see why we feel the way we do when riding an elevator, whether that being we feel lighter or heavier during our elevator ride. It is also interesting to see and think about scale measurements on an elevator, and how we can apply our knowledge of forces to justify these happenings.

I think it is very interesting that scales measure apparent weight and not your actual weight. The fact that you can change a reading on a scale or that you are weightless in free fall is very interesting.

The most confusing part of class so far for me is the velocity vs time graphs and the position vs time graph. I have a hard time with graphs in general, so in class I am getting them confused and putting/drawing the wrong things down. Nothing else is confusing to me about the lecture, but I do need more practice with graphs.

The sign of acceleration can be confusing, since it is natural to think that speeding up would mean positive acceleration, and slowing down would mean negative acceleration. Since that is not necessarily the case, I would like to talk about the way direction affects the sign of acceleration, in a way that makes it easily understandable.

I am having a hard time understand acceleration with velocity-versus-time graphs. Also understanding the whole concept behind the slope of the velocity-versus-time graph regarding acceleration. Understanding that acceleration as the slope of the velocity graph forces us to pay careful attention to the sign of acceleration. An object undergoing constant acceleration has a straight line. However, a straight line can be towards the positive or negative direction so it then changes the whole interpretation of the graph in assessing acceleration. Reading velocity-versus-time graphs and applying that information to the concept of acceleration.

I found it very interesting that all of the areas under the velocity vs time graphs can be divided into triangles and rectangles to find the total area underneath. This really simplifies the process and takes a concept that seems scary and breaks it down into simple geometry.

Acceleration in general in interesting to me. It is nature to thing when an object is speeding up with would automatically have positive acceleration and negative acceleration when slowing down. After class I now realize that this is not the case and that direction is actually a very important concept. Knowing rather an object is speeding up or slowing down and which direction it is traveling in will in fact lead you to rather the acceleration is positive or negative.

The topic that I found most interesting was honestly how much information you could get from a velocity vs. time graph. I mean, ultimately, you can find the position, distance, displacement, acceleration–pretty much everything we have talked about so far.

The topic that I had enjoyed the most would be that the velocity is the slope of the position versus time graph and that the acceleration is the slope of the velocity versus time graph. I find that interesting that those three go hand in hand. I also find it interesting that you can find the acceleration, velocity and the displacement just by looking at the velocity versus time graph. There are so many ways to acquire data by just one or two graphs.

The topic that I found to be most interesting was the concept of constant acceleration in the example of the rocket as the rocket has a constant velocity but the acceleration is zero, so the relationship is similar to the position and time graphs to velocity and time graphs. I like looking at similar relationships and this made my understanding of acceleration better.

I found interesting how the acceleration vector has an easy way to remember in which direction it goes. When the velocity is speeding up the vectors of acceleration and velocity are in the same direction and when the velocity vectors are slowing down the acceleration and velocity vectors are going in different directions.

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