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Students have mixed feeling about change to the Physics 10A curriculum

By Anindita Chanda

Section: Opinions

November 4, 2016

Toward the beginning of the semester, I had written an opinion piece about how there could be potential changes made to what was then the Physics 10A curriculum. At the time, students felt very positively about the ability to do test corrections and essentially “earn” points for the final. However, students were concerned that we were not given answer keys or being lectured about the chapters as the class was supposed to be a flipped classroom.
With all of that being said, a little more than two months or so has passed, and since then major changes have been made to the Physics 10A curriculum. Some of these changes include giving students access to answer keys on Latte, giving two days of lectures (one day to go over the chapter, another day to review the material and have students ask questions as they work on problems), as well as posting relevant online lectures/videos for each unit on Latte.
Given these changes, I was curious to see how students’ opinions about the course have changed, if in any way at all. I compiled many of the positive and negative reactions given by students, keeping all reactions anonymous as requested.
It seems the majority of students appreciated the fact that the faculty in charge of Physics 10A made an effort to reach out to their students, get feedback from them about the course and actively make changes to it based on the feedback they received. As one student thoroughly put it, by reflecting on the good aspects of the old and new version alike: “I appreciate the professor’s willingness to hear students’ feedback and make the appropriate changes … I really like the test corrections and the way the grading is structure because it is set up so that no student can really fail the course.” However, this student then reflected that they would “like to really be able to learn the material well. Changes are a good mix.”
Some students, on the other hand, are still adamant about wanting to “see more direct problems solved out in class [and] practice exams.”
But with that being said, a good portion of the students also remarked that the course made some necessary positive changes. However, the current main problem is the textbook, which is often verbose, contains many derivations and does not emphasize what bits of the content are actually relevant.
“I still honestly prefer a lecture-based type of class and I think the switch to every other day being a lecture is helpful, but the class still feels a little disorganized. The textbook really doesn’t feel all that useful or effective really in conveying the topics so most of my learning for the class comes from those lectures.”
As is evident from the mini collage of reactions by students, there is clearly a mix of opinions about the current Physics 10A course. One has to wonder how much of it is due to a student’s predisposition for hating or loving physics. How much of it is due to a student’s innate ability to understand physics? Are the students who are still unsatisfied with this course utilizing all of the resources that Physics 10A now provides us? Are the students who are completely content with this course seeking external help? At the end of the day, can a course (especially one that was completely restructured so recently) really tailor to every student’s needs?
Regardless, it can be concluded that overall, people are content that the Physics 10A faculty value their students’ thoughts about the course and are actively trying to improve it. The question that begs to be asked is, have the changes disintegrated what was the essence of this course: a “flipped classroom?” And if it has, does it particularly matter if students end up performing better through this version of the course than through the previous one? Is the current version of the course a happy medium between a traditional lecture based classroom and a flipped classroom? As the guinea pigs of this class, we shall see soon enough.

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