Modern Physics

About the Transformed Course

The papers linked below explain much of the process and rationale behind the transformations. The first part (2006) reports on the state of affairs following the first year of the process, after the course had been taught twice (in the FA05 and SP06 semesters). The second part (2011) details additional changes that were made to the materials as part of Charles Baily's dissertation project on quantum perspectives.

2006 Paper: " Reforming a large lecture modern physics course for engineering majors using a PER-based design "
(Sam B. McKagan, Katherine K. Perkins, and Carl E. Wieman )
We have reformed a large lecture modern physics course for engineering majors by radically changing both the content and the learning techniques implemented in lecture and homework. Traditionally this course has been taught in a manner similar to the equivalent course for physics majors, focusing on mathematical solutions of abstract problems. Based on interviews with physics and engineering professors, we developed a syllabus and learning goals focused on content that was more useful to our actual student population: engineering majors. The content of this course emphasized reasoning development, model building, and connections to real world applications. In addition we implemented a variety of PER-based learning techniques, including peer instruction, collaborative homework sessions, and interactive simulations. We have assessed the effectiveness of reforms in this course using pre/post surveys on both content and beliefs. We have found significant improvements in both content knowledge and beliefs compared with the same course before implementing these reforms and a corresponding course for physics majors.
Above paper is available at this link.

2011 Paper: "Interpretive Themes in Quantum Physics: Curriculum Development and Outcomes "
Charles Baily and Noah D. Finkelstein
A common learning goal for modern physics instructors is for students to recognize a difference between the experimental uncertainty of classical physics and the fundamental uncertainty of quantum mechanics. Our prior work has shown that student perspectives on the physical interpretation of quantum mechanics can be characterized, and are differentially influenced by the myriad ways instructors approach interpretive themes in their introductory courses. We report how a transformed modern physics curriculum (recently implemented at the University of Colorado) has positively impacted student perspectives on quantum physics, by making questions of classical and quantum reality a central theme of the course, but also by making the beliefs of students (and not just those of scientists) an explicit topic of discussion.
This paper is available at this link.