Physics, especially at the introductory level, is not a subject that can be learned passively. In fact, recent results from Physics Education Research have clearly shown that engaging students in the classroom is critical to successful learning. SCALE-UP (Student-Centered- Active-Learning-Environment for Undergraduate-Programs) was introduced to the Physics Department at ODU when Larry Weinstein and Charles Sukenik observed this style in use by Dr. Robert Beichner at North Carolina State University
In SCALE-UP, students work on interesting activities in carefully structured groups of three, sitting around large round tables with white boards for working out problems and laptops for simulations and web access. Unlike a traditional class, most of the class time is spent on group activities that may include working problems at a whiteboard, answering "clicker questions" which test qualitative and quantitative understanding, and working on "mini-labs" which demonstrate the physics topic being learned.
Lab instruction has historically been a cornerstone of physics education. Many of our undergraduate courses include a lab portion as part of their curriculum. Goals range over reinforcing content, learning about measurement and uncertainty, practicing communication skills, developing teamwork skills, and, more broadly, learning that physics is an experimental science. During the class, students work together with a partners and are instructed by a Teaching Assistant (TA), who is also a graduate student in the physics department.
In PHYS 413, undergraduate physics majors perform many different experiments ranging from classic experiments in modern physics to current, cutting edge physics.
Millikan Oil Drop
And many more experiments in modern physics.
As part of the Bacherlor's in Physics program, students conduct a research project. Typically this project is done during the student's senior year. For projects that may not have lab space, or that need specialized conditions, the Physics Department has dedicated space for these students. Projects could be building lasers or even working with an atomic force microscope.