Ken heller

university of minnesota

Building an Introductory Physics Course for Biology Majors

Monday, March 6, 2006

4:30 p.m.

CW 102


Biology is rapidly changing in a manner that makes its study more quantitative and dependent on physical principles.  Introductory physics course targeted for biology majors must become more quantitative and attuned to the needs of biology.  For two decades the University of Minnesota has using a systems approach to improve its largest introductory physics courses and is now in the process of modifying its course for biology majors.  The most important aspect of this process is deciding on the goals of the course which then help determine both its content and pedagogy.  We emphasize the practical application of research-based pedagogy within the constraints of a large research university.  Our approach, where possible, has been to embrace the traditional emphasis of teaching physics through problem solving using the existing structures of a physics course.  The teaching and learning environment must also be one that works reasonably well when not fully implemented and takes a minimum of special training for instructors.  This talk will discuss goals and structure of this course, the value of problem solving, the use of researched based pedagogy, and measures to assess progress.