Inquiry Into Physics

Physics 115 sec 0201


University of Maryland

Spring Semester 2004


Where, When:Physics 3316, MWF9:00 to 10:50 AM

Instructors: ††† Leslie AtkinsOffice: Physics 1322Phone: 301.405.6185Email:

†††††††† Paul HutchisonOffice: Physics 1406Phone: 301.405.5983Email:

†††††††††††††††††††† Office Hours:By appointment.We are always happy to meet with you!

TAís: Leah Harner-Kerlavage ( and Brain Lachance (


There are no prerequisites for the course, though enrollment in it is limited to Elementary Education and Early Childhood majors.You will receive four credit hours for completion of the course and may receive credit for only one of PHYS 115 or PHYS 117.


About this course:


††††††††††† Your experience in Inquiry into Physics will likely be a little different from your previous science classes.The main elements of the course are discussions you have with your lab partners and other classmates and observations you make.Your understanding of the concepts we encounter will be grounded in the lab exercises we do and the discussions you engage in, and will involve you making sense of those things using your own intuitions about the way things work.

Because of the critical importance of your participation to both your own learning and to the learning of your lab group and the class as a whole, we expect you to attend regularly.To encourage your regular presence, attendance will be taken each day.You are allowed two unexcused absences.You must provide documentation for any excused absences.Your course grade will be lowered by two percent for each unexcused absence beyond the second.If you are more than 15 minutes late for a class you will be counted as absent.However, you will be welcome to attend and profit from your work with the group.




Your course grade will be determined as follows:

††††††††††† Item†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† fraction of overall grade

††††††††††† Exam 1†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† 20%

††††††††††† Exam 2†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† 20%

††††††††††† Exam 3†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† 20%

††††††††††† Homework assignments†††††††††††† ††††††††††† 20%

††††††††††† Lab Notebook†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 20%

The grading scale we use is a score of 100-90 is an A, 89-80 is a B, 79-70 is a C, 69-60 is a D, and any grade below a 60 is an F.


Exam Schedule:


††††††††††† The course is divided into three units, each of which will focus on a single physic topic. Each unit will end with an exam.The three exams will be given on Feb 27th, April 9th, and May 17th.The first two exams will be given during normal class hours and the third is scheduled for the time of our exam during finals week, from 8 to 10 AM in our normal classroom.We will explain the exam format a week or two before the first test .

Homework Assignments:


††††††††††† We will be trying some things with the homework that are new to us.Specifically, this will involve giving you feedback on your first draft of the homework and asking you to revise it based on our feedback.This will probably mean assignments will be made on some irregular schedule, at least early in the semester.We hope to figure out some reasonable routine as we go along.For MOST lengthier assignments we will give you the time between two class meetings to complete the work, for assignments that involve only revisions to previous work we will give you until the next class meeting.


Lab Notebooks:


There is no textbook for this course.Instead, the work you do with your lab partners and the discussions we have with other members of the class will serve as your source of ideas.So, you need to keep accurate records of this.This should include what experiments you did, why you did them, the results you got, what those results mean, your ideas and questions, and the ideas and questions of others.Your notebook must be a three-ring binder and should include a section with lots of loose leaf paper for recording your in-class work, a section for your daily sheets, and a section for your graded assignments (homework and tests).Your notebook will be collected and graded four times during the semester.When grading we will select one class from the past week or so and look for the following in your notes from that day:

         Did you clearly describe the set up of any experiments we did?

         Did you understand and explain why you performed any experiments?

         Did you clearly explain your results?

         Did you note your groupís interpretation of these results?

         Is there evidence that you listened to other groups and their ideas?

         Is there evidence that you have considered the implications of ideas and experiments?

Furthermore, the quality of your daily sheets will count as a part of your lab notebook grade.

In the end, this notebook should tell a story of how you began your scientific inquiry and how your ideas about scientific concepts developed, and how these ideas were grounded in experimental evidence and discussions.


Daily Summary Sheet:


††††††††††† At the end of each class period we will give you a few minutes to fill out a daily summary sheet.These sheets will be turned in at the end of each class and returned at the following class meeting.They will be checked to verify you are completing them thoroughly.All of the returned sheets should be kept in your lab notebook.


Academic Integrity:


††††††††††† The integrity of your degree is important to us.Therefore we strongly support the Code of Academic Integrity of the University of Maryland.What does this mean in a collaborative environment like the one we have in this class?We expect you to consider yourselves a part of a learning community, so it is quite appropriate you seek help as you do your various assignments.You will be most successful if you work with other students both in and out of class.This does not, however, mean identical reports are in order.You are expected to respond in your own unique style, even when the conclusions were reached through group efforts.