Workbook for Introductory Physics

developed by: David E. Meltzer and Kandiah Manivannan

middle schoolhigh schoolintro collegeinter-mediateupper levelgrad school   other

 Intro College Calculus-based
calc based
 Intro College Algebra-based
alg based

Electricity / Magnetism  Waves / Optics  Modern / Quantum
Lecture - Large (30+ students)  Lecture - Small (<30 students)  Recitation/Discussion Session  Studio

What? Sequences of multiple-choice questions that emphasize qualitative reasoning and multiple representations. For interactive discussion in large lecture classes with clickers or flashcards. Accompanied by lecture notes, exams, and free-response worksheets. Designed for students with less preparation.

Why? Similar to Peer Instruction, but includes a higher proportion of interactive activities, and a full set of materials for an intro E&M course. The conceptual "step-size" from one question to the next is relatively small, offering a more gentle approach for students with limited preparation.

Why not? Materials are only available for the second semester of intro physics. This is a band-aid on a traditional lecture course structure, which is less ideal than making a more drastic change to your course structure and engaging students in working on longer and more meaningful problems.

Example materials


Activity outline

A typical class has three phases:

  1. Mini-lecture: Brief introduction/review of the basic concepts (3–7 minutes).
  2. Interactive questions: A sequence of multiple-choice questions posed to the class. These emphasize qualitative reasoning, proceeding from relatively simple to more challenging, and are closely linked to each other to explore one or two concepts from a multitude of perspectives, using a variety of representations. Students provide responses by using the flash cards. Brief free-response exercises, for example, drawing simple diagrams or performing elementary calculations, are interspersed.
  3. Follow-up activities: Interactive demonstrations, group work using free-response worksheets, or another mini-lecture and question sequence.

From D. Meltzer and K. Manivannan, Transforming the lecture-hall environment: The fully interactive physics lecture, Am. J. Phys. 70 (6), 639 (2002).

Curriculum outline

Chapter 1: Electric Charges and Forces
Chapter 2: Electric Fields
Chapter 3: Electric Potential Energy
Chapter 4: Electric Potential
Chapter 5: Current and Resistance
Chapter 6: Series Circuits
Chapter 7: Electrical Power
Chapter 8: Parallel Circuits
Chapter 9: Magnetic Forces and Magnetic Fields
Chapter 10: Magnetic Induction
Chapter 11: Electromagnetic Waves
Chapter 12: Optics
Chapter 13: Photons and Atomic Spectra
Chapter 14: Nuclear Structure and Radioactivity

Student skills developed

Designed for:
  • Conceptual understanding
  • Using multiple representations
Can be adapted for:
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Metacognition

Instructor effort required

  • Medium

Developer's website: Workbook for Introductory Physics
Intro Article: D. Meltzer and K. Manivannan, Transforming the lecture-hall environment: The fully interactive physics lecture, Am. J. Phys. 70 (6), 639 (2002).

You can download a full set of materials for an introductory E&M course, including sequences of multiple-choice questions that emphasize qualitative reasoning and multiple representations, lecture notes, exams, and free-response worksheets, for free from the developer's website. The developers do not provide materials for introductory mechanics because they rely more heavily on other published materials, such as Knight's Student Workbook for Physics and the Tutorials in Introductory Physics.

You can download a sample series fo questions from PhysPort.

Bronze Validation
This is the third highest level of research validation, corresponding to:
  • at least 1 of the "based on" categories
  • at least 1 of the "demonstrated to improve" categories
  • at least 1 of the "studied using" categories
(Categories shown below)

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • theories of how students learn
  • student ideas about specific topics

Demonstrated to Improve:

  • conceptual understanding
  • problem-solving skills
  • lab skills
  • beliefs and attitudes
  • attendance
  • retention of students
  • success of underrepresented groups
  • performance in subsequent classes

Studied using:

  • cycle of research and redevelopment
  • student interviews
  • classroom observations
  • analysis of written work
  • research at multiple institutions
  • research by multiple groups
  • peer-reviewed publication