Engaging Students in Optics

Document Type


Document Subtype


Presentation Date

Winter 2-17-2010

Conference Name

2010 Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers

Conference Location

Washington, DC


We began to revise our optics curriculum because our students displayed limited optical understanding and laboratory independence. They were employing "answer making" and going through the motions of doing optics without understanding the physics. Rather than adding the "latest and greatest" experimental investigations, we decided to focus on foundational basics. The laboratory methodology we developed relies upon peer interaction, confrontation of misconceptions, and skill building. The laboratory sequence helps students understand optics while fostering independence. Active learning in the laboratory is hindered if the students are not consistently and actively engaged in the class room setting as well. This can be difficult in an intermediate class due to mathematical rigor and the need to develop physical insights and conceptual understanding. To assist in the endeavor we developed a series of tutorials that help guide the students to develop "sense making" and facilitate the vital in-class discussions.


Optics, labs, physics


Optics | Physics

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