Understanding or memorization: Are we teaching the right thing


E. Mazur. 1997. “Understanding or memorization: Are we teaching the right thing.” In Conference on the Introductory Physics Course on the occasion of the retirement of Robert Resnick, edited by Jack Wilson, Pp. 113–124. Wiley. Publisher's Version


When people I meet ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I am a physicist, I frequently hear horror stories about high school or college level physics – almost to the point of making me feel embarrassed about being a physicist! This general sense of frustration with introductory physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism) is widespread among non-physics majors who are required to take physics courses. Even physics majors are frequently dissatisfied with their introductory courses and a large fraction of students initially interested in physics end up majoring in a different field. Frustration with introductory physics courses has been commented on since the days of Maxwell and has recently been publicized by Sheila Tobias. Tobias asked a number of graduate students in the humanities and social sciences to audit physics courses and describe their complaints. One may be tempted to brush off complaints by non-physics majors as coming from students who are ipso facto not interested in physics. Most of these students, however, are not complaining about other required courses outside their major field
Last updated on 07/25/2019