Teaching Optics in the Introductory Mechanics Laboratory

Document Type


Presentation Date

Winter 2-7-2012

Conference Name

American Association of Physics Teachers Winter meeting 2012

Conference Location

Ontario CA


Laboratory often is simply an adjunct to the class as a hands-on demonstration.

Previously, we had significantly modified our first semester and

second semester laboratories in recognition of the fact that if you change

physical concepts and equipment in every laboratory class, the labs must

devolve into instruction following activities. In the second semester, we

have the students learn about circuits through investigation in the laboratory

and removed the topic from the lecture. The first semester laboratories

(mechanics) were modified so that the focus, while still mechanics was

much more narrow and concerned with application of kinematics and

Newton’s laws. Being radical, we decided to put all of the laboratories into

the lecture as interactive lecture investigations and used the laboratory

time to have the students learn about geometric optics through investigation.

This presentation will describe our approach and the measures of

student learning in optics and mechanics.


Teaching Optics



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