Department Information

Performance-based Physics

Physics Education Research over the past 15 years has developed superior ways of teaching physics at the introductory level. To stay current and competitive with other physics departments the the Ithaca College physics department faculty are interested in adopting and implementing the Studio Physics and SCALE-UP approach to teaching introductory physics at Ithaca College. We propose to call this approach Performance-Based Physics to highlight the College's mission of recognizing the value of combining theory and performance.

Rensselaer's Physics Education Group pioneered the "studio" approach to physics instruction. The defining characteristics of studio physics classes are integrated lecture/laboratory form, a reduction in lecture time, a technology-enhanced learning environment, collaborative group work, and a high level of faculty-student interaction. SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) developed at North Carolina State University expands the Studio Physics model to classrooms of 100 or more students. 

To accommodate large enrollment classes our room contains 11 seven-foot-diameter tables with each table seating 9 students working in groups of 3 for a total of 99 students in the room. Each table has an associated 10.5-foot-wide storage cabinet along the walls of the room containing Pasco data collection equipment and whiteboard doors for solving physics problems.

We have moved all of our 100-level courses out of lecture halls and into this state-of-art learning environment. Ithaca College is first in offering general education astronomy and science of sound courses in this type of laboratory. We'll be studying the effectiveness of this method of teaching science over the next three years. We anticipate several national publications and presentations resulting from our innovative work.

Timeline for Implementation

Year-01 (2004-2005 Academic Year)

  • July-2004 or Sep-2004 hold a SCALE-UP workshop at IC. Robert Beichner at North Carolina State University has agreed to hold a SCALE-UP workshop at IC. He has NSF funds to cover the costs of this workshop
  • Plan development
  • Assess impact of new schedule on courses by examining schedules and discussing with other departments
  • Submit NSF proposal (02-Dec-2004 Deadline)
  • Site visits (see SUPFIPSE.pdf document for details on SCALE-UP implementation program)

Year-02 (2005-2006 Academic Year)

  • Remodel CNS206 and start teaching PH117 and PH118 in new room using existing teaching methods while incorporating a few hands on activities
  • Assess our progress

Year-03 (2006-2007 Academic Year)

  • Major remodeling to make one large room from CNS-206 and CNS-208 (and the outer storerooms)
  • Teach GenEds in room with modest development of hands on activities
  • More complete adoption and development of hands on activities for PH117 and PH118
  • NSF DUE CCLI grant # 0536246 for $150,000 awarded for three years.

Year-04 (2007-2008 Academic Year)

  • Teach PH101 and PH102 in new room using curricular adoptions and developments while continuing development
  • Teach PH175 : Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe in the SCALE-UP model.

Year-05 (2008-2009 Academic Year) and onward.

  • Examine assessment from years 2 through 5 and determine the effectiveness of the curricular change
  • Plan appropriate adjustments if needed. 
  • 3-year, non-tenure eligible faculty member begins teaching all sections of PH101 and PH102.
  • Teach PH174: Solar System Astronomy in the SCALE-UP model. 
  • Continue making modifications to courses based on assessment.
  • Present results at conferences and in publications. �
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