Teaching optics in the introductory Mechanics Laboratory

Document Type


Presentation Date

Winter 2-7-2012

Conference Name

Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers

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.



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