Sunday, November 07, 2004

My hands feel tied

I agree with you 100%, and yet my hands feel tied. If my students don't learn certain equations or how to solve certain problems, what will they do in Organic Chemistry when they're expected to find the rotational inertia of a molecule? It's all fine and dandy if they can explain in words all about rotational inertia and what affects it, but if they can't calculate it ... then I, in a sense, have not fulfilled my role in the department. It's not as bad as if I'm preparing physics majors, but I still feel a certain amount of responsibility to teach them how physics is traditionally done. And I have tried to combine that with actually UNDERSTANDING what is going on. This seems to work for some students, but it totally doesn't work for others who know how to play the game, and get frustrated with me when I won't just give them an equation to plug numbers into. I expect them to *gasp* think about the situation and think about how to solve a certain problem. Others who understand all the ideas feel stymied as well. They don't know how to play the equation picking game and get stuck. While I have seen other students this semester be overjoyed when they finally figured out the equation picking game.

What would be ideal (maybe?) is if the students could learn and understand the ideas in physics in such a way that solving problems isn't a "game." I think solving problems is an important tool because depending on what career you are heading into, there are some things you have to figure out. But the way they are learning to solve problems now is very far removed from real-life situations.



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