Friday, January 18, 2008

Term Papers

My friend and the senior author of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology, Russ Hobbie, sent me this blog entry to share with you all:

One of the motivations for developing the course that led to this book is the huge gap between a general physics course and the research literature. Often when I was teaching this course, I had students write a term paper instead of a final exam. The term paper was to take a paper from the research literature and fill in the missing steps. Students selected a candidate research paper early in the term and gave it too me for approval. They could come to me as often as necessary for help understanding the research. The last week of the term they turned in both the research paper and term paper and scheduled a half-hour “oral exam” with me a couple of days later. They knew that I would ask them questions about anything I suspected they did not really understand. I had a grading algorithm that assigned points for the difficulty of the research paper, the clarity of the term paper, and my assessment of how well they understood the research based on the oral exam. I had a lot of informal visits by students the week before the term paper was due. Students seemed to learn a lot, and some of these papers became paragraphs or problems in later editions of our book.

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