An Annotated Bibliography for

Teachers of Physics and Astronomy in Community Colleges

Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for

EDCC 892 C01 with Dr. Anne Kuhta

By

Harold A. Geller

George Mason University

Abstract

The bulk of this report constitutes an annotated bibliography. The targeted audience is teachers of physics and astronomy at community colleges. However, any teacher of physics or astronomy at any level is likely to benefit from many of the articles reviewed within this annotated bibliography. Most articles were culled from papers which were published within the journal produced by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) titled The Physics Teacher. There are also articles from published symposium proceedings and other journals.

An Annotated Bibliography for Teachers of Physics and Astronomy in Community Colleges

I present herein an annotated bibliography geared specifically to the faculty of physics and astronomy in two-year higher education institutions. My approach to the accumulation of these papers included a number of steps. I examined all of the issues of The Physics Teacher published from January 1990 to June 2000. I searched these issues for articles that I thought were appropriate for my own use and were written by faculty of two-year colleges. It should be noted that these articles are just as applicable to any introductory courses at any four-year college or university.

I also chose to examine three edited volumes of papers (Gouguenheim, L. et al., 1998; Pasachoff, J. & Percy, J., 1990; and, Fraknoi, A., 1998) that consisted of presentations made at symposium specifically for instructors of astronomy. I was disappointed to find that there was very little two-year institution representation at the symposium, while there was significant participation by high school teachers and four-year college faculty. It appears to demonstrate a need for better two-year college representation in the astronomy community.

The annotated bibliography follows in an alphabetically ordered manner for the convenience of finding the references. Furthermore, all references adhere to the APA Publication Manual (4th edition) style for references. This was made convenient by utilizing Reference Point Software's "Reference Point Templates for APA Style" for Microsoft Word 6.0.

Bagchi, B. & Holody, P. (1991). Study of Projectile Motion by Angular Momentum and Torque. The Physics Teacher, 29, 376-377. The authors are concerned that standard introductory physics textbooks may lead students with the false impression that the study of angular momentum and torque is only useful for rotational motion problems. The authors demonstrate how the concepts of angular momentum and torque can be successfully applied to solving problems of projectile motion. They first demonstrate how angular momentum and torque can be used to solve the range of a projectile such as a cannonball, which represents the furthest possible distance that the projectile can travel from the source. They use similar techniques to derive other useful equations related to projectile motion, including one that was not found in any of the standard texts used at their respective community colleges, namely Wayne County Community College and Henry Ford Community College.

Emigh, D. (1998). Using the VRML Server to Create Scientific Visualizations in Astronomy. In A. Fraknoi (Ed.), Proceedings of the Symposium on Teaching Astronomy for Non-science Majors (pp. 225-228). San Francisco, CA: Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The author discusses the use of images from the Astronomy Digital Image Library (ADIL) of the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for an elementary astronomy laboratory. The author provides details of the computer laboratory experiment that he designed for demonstrating how astronomers estimate the velocity of the rotation of galaxies. He highlights the use of the Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) and how it can be used to familiarize students with visualization techniques and analysis techniques utilized by scientists working with these images. This work was carried out at the Quinebaug Valley Community Technical College.

Hoffman, D. (1991). A Cycloid Race. The Physics Teacher, 29, 395-397. The author discusses the concepts and misconceptions associated with the classical problem of a ball rolling down an inclined plane versus one rolling down a cycloid-shaped path. The author notes that many students and teachers find the actual results to be somewhat counterintuitive. He develops a design for a simple apparatus that would demonstrate the correct concept for first-year physics students. The author also discusses his BASIC computer program that can be used to calculate the theoretical times that it would take a ball to roll down such a cycloid-shaped path. The approach discussed here was utilized at Bellevue Community College.

Hood, C. (1993). Teaching about Quantum Theory. The Physics Teacher, 31, 290-293. The author discusses the problems associated with the teaching of quantum theory in elementary physics, particularly the notion of the wave-particle duality of radiation. The author points out that standard physics texts for first-year physics students typically teaches the concepts of quantum theory after the teaching of the model of the atom that was originally developed at the turn of the century (1900) by Thompson and Rutherford. The author states his case for changing this method of teaching physics. The author believes that if textbooks would take his three-step approach that he used at Tidewater Community College, the students would not be confused by the wave-particle duality and avoid the typical scenario of delving into talk that borders on mysticism.

Hunt, R. (1993). Dancing to a Different Tune. The Physics Teacher, 31, 206-207. The author discusses demonstrations that he has developed for his physics classes when they begin discussing sound waves. The demonstration uses inexpensive materials (a list is provided) and forces the students to consider the differences that are heard in any room with two or more speakers. The author also discusses the analyses that he performs on the results of the experiments, utilizing the popular spreadsheet program Excel. Participants are forced to consider the realization that no two people in a room are listening to exactly the same sounds. These demonstrations were developed at Johnson County Community in Overland Park, Kansas.

Johns, R. (1998). Physics on a Rotating Reference Frame. The Physics Teacher, 36, 178-180. This article discusses the building and use of a rotating platform apparatus that can be used for either laboratory experiments or in-class demonstrations. The author analyzes the use of the equipment in demonstrating three basic principles of physics, typically taught in the first semester of all physics classes. The three principles are Newtonian Relativity, the Coriolis Effect and the conservation of angular momentum. The author points out that teachers should not talk too much during the demonstrations, rather allow the students to experience these phenomena and talk amongst themselves. The author provides details on the construction of the apparatus as well as its use. The author also notes that he has found that such a demonstration is much more instructive than any computer simulation. This approach was developed at Manor Junior College in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.

Lane, B. (1993). Why Can't Physicists Draw FBD's. The Physics Teacher, 31, 216-217. This brief article addresses the concept and visualization technique called a Free-Body Diagram (FBD). The author's experience in teaching physics to engineering students has led the author to develop his own techniques for drawing FBD's. The author points out that the typical FBD depiction in standard physics textbooks lead to confusion in the minds of the students. In fact, in some cases contradicting the approach just described in the same textbook a few chapters earlier. While the author does not cite specific cases in specific textbooks, the author applies his own approach and compares this to the so-called standard textbook. This work was done at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida.

Leinoff, S. (1991). Ray Tracing with Virtual Objects. The Physics Teacher, 29, 275-277. This article presents an approach to solving optics problems that is considered to be more acceptable to students. The optics problems considered in this article are those consisting of two or more lenses. The author notes that ray tracing is demonstrated utilizing individual lenses in most physics textbooks, but only mathematical equations are used to solve multiple-lens problems. The author emphasizes the fact that ray-tracing techniques for multiple-lens problems is very useful and more easily understood by the typical student than the abstract mathematical approach. However, the author does demonstrate how he relates that mathematics to the ray-tracing technique, but only after having solved the problem using the ray-tracing technique. This allows the transference of a visual aid into mathematical symbolism. This work was done at Adirondack Community College in Queensbury, New York.

LoPresto, M. (1999). Another Look at Atwood's Machine. The Physics Teacher, 37, 82-83. This author laments about two trends in the first-year physics classroom. First is the increasing emphasis on computer-based laboratory experiments. The second is the tendency of physics textbooks to present Newton's Laws and the study of work and energy as two disparate concepts. The article addresses both these concerns using the Atwood machine. He shows how this simple device can be used to demonstrate the principles of work and energy at the same time that it demonstrates Newton kinematics. Such a demonstration or laboratory experiment is considered to be a true hands-on experience for the students as compared to a computer simulation. The author has a recommended number of trials for laboratory experiment use, which is also a key to the understanding of experimental error. This approach was developed at the Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan.

LoPresto, M. (1998). A Closer Look at the Spectrum of Helium. The Physics Teacher, 36, 172-173. The author discusses the typical laboratory experiments performed with diffraction gratings and a gas tube. The most common gas tube utilized in such experiments is hydrogen. However, the author points out that hydrogen is naturally the simplest gas, and the classical Bohr explanation of the emission lines of even the next simplest gas, helium, fails to explain all of the emission lines present. While most elementary physics teachers merely state that modeling the helium emission lines are beyond the mathematical capabilities of the students within the class, the author has developed a different approach. The author utilizes an energy-level diagram to help explain all of the visible emission lines. He points out in the laboratory that while the classical Bohr model assumes that electrons travel in orbits, it ignores the Heisenberg uncertainties associated with momentum and position, but most of all it ignores the effects of the spin of the electrons and the Pauli exclusion principle. The author has found that utilizing helium as part of the diffraction grating experiment, along with the energy-level diagram, has helped students understand the complexities of spectral analysis better than just using hydrogen gas tubes. This work was done at the Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan.

Maaka, M. & Ward, S. (2000). Content Area Reading in Community College Classrooms. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 24, 107-125. I originally chose to include this paper because I am keenly aware of the fact that one of the problems that introductory students of physics and astronomy have is with the textbook for the course. The authors have some quotes by students about their textbooks that could have been said by my own students. The authors conducted two surveys, one of students and one of instructors at a community college. A total of 236 students and 12 faculty participated in the surveys. The surveys themselves addressed six primary issues that the authors felt were paramount when considering content area reading. This included students' own perceptions of their ability to gain knowledge from reading the textbook, the motivation of students to read the textbook, the students' skills and strategies for reading the textbook, the students' perceived usefulness of textbook readings, and the instructors' suggestions for professional development activities. It is unfortunate that the authors did not feel that the writing of the textbook was anything to consider in their surveys. The authors themselves present an introductory set of paragraphs that belie their own bias in this study. Thus it is no surprise that the authors' conclusion support their initial set of biased premises. The study itself is informative, but the conclusions go well beyond the scope of the study data presented.

O'Connell, J. (1999). Optics Experiments Using a Laser Pointer. The Physics Teacher, 37, 445-446. As is so often stated, "adversity is the mother of invention." Here we have a physics instructor that has taken the simple laser pointer, that is so prevalent these days, and turned it into a valuable light source for laboratory experiments. In this short paper the author presents no less than nine basic experiments that can be performed with a laser pointer and ancillary material. These experiments represent a low cost means for implementing optical laboratory experiments without the usually associated large sums of money for equipment. Everything from Young's double-slit experiment to demonstration of the rainbow effect is seen in the light of a laser pointer. A typical light source for an optical bench set up would cost two to four times as much as a standard laser pointer. These laboratory experiments were developed at Frederick Community College in Frederick, Maryland.

Tavel, J. (1995). Two National Surveys of Two-Year College Physics Faculty. The Physics Teacher, 33, 85-90. The author discusses two surveys that she conducted of physics and astronomy faculty at two-year colleges. The author is quick to point out that this paper is not a strict statistical analysis. Such honest self-assessment is refreshing. This paper addresses the data acquired by the two surveys, how the results of the data were inter-related, and how the surveys provide a description of the typical two-year college faculty member. As one might expect, the dislikes of faculty highlighted the workload, lack of appreciation and exhaustion. Another problem unique to the "hard sciences" is the fact that only 15 percent of the laboratory space provided was considered adequate to do the job. More than half of the faculty noted that they felt like social workers in that they had to deal with human service issues before any academic issues. This is an indicator of what community colleges have become. It should also be noted that the two answers most given for why the respondents were teaching at a two-year institution were love of teaching and enjoyment of the students. The author has provided a valuable service for all science instructors interested in teaching at any two-year institution.

Walker, W. (1998). Teaching Astronomy Labs with RedShift 2. In A. Fraknoi (Ed.), Proceedings of the Symposium on Teaching Astronomy for Non-Science Majors (pp. 191-194). San Francisco, CA: Astronomical Society of the Pacific. This article deals with the use of a software package called Redshift 2 in astronomy laboratories. The author points out the advantages of using this computer software as a set of laboratory exercises. The author does point out that students should still be given as many opportunities as possible to look through telescopes at the stars, planets and other celestial objects. The author also addresses how the software satisfies his three major goals in class. These goals include learning to be good observers, connecting the theoretical models of the universe with the observed universe, and developing an interest in the study of astronomy. The work presented in this paper was done at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas.

Zheng, T., Mears, M., Hall, D., Pushkin, D., Jorgensen, S., Banks, K., Hyatt, R., & Shleyzer,Y. (1994). Teaching the Nonlinear Pendulum. The Physics Teacher, 32, 248-251. This paper is an excellent view of how much students can gain from a single laboratory experiment. It should be noted that this laboratory exercise is designed for the calculus-based introductory physics courses. The authors utilize a computer-based laboratory equipped with the mathematical software package MathCAD. The authors explain their approach to the mathematical description of the motion of non-linear pendulums as well as a description of the equipment requirements and setup. The reported accuracy is excellent for such a simple setup. After completing analysis of the laboratory exercise the authors report that the students have gained an understanding of the application of calculus to real physical problems and an enrichment of their skills in physics, math and computers. This work was completed at Manatee Community College in Bradenton, Florida, and included gifted/talented student participation from the Bayshore High School in Bradenton.

References

Bagchi, B. & Holody, P. (1991). Study of Projectile Motion by Angular Momentum and Torque. The Physics Teacher, 29, 376-377.

Emigh, D. (1998). Using the VRML Server to Create Scientific Visualizations in Astronomy. In A. Fraknoi (Ed.), Proceedings of the Symposium on Teaching Astronomy for Non-science Majors (pp. 225-228). San Francisco, CA: Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Fraknoi, A. (Ed.). (1998). Proceedings of the Symposium on Teaching Astronomy for Non-science Majors. San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Gouguenheim, L., McNally, D., & Percy, J. (Eds.). (1998). New Trends in Astronomy Teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hoffman, D. (1991). A Cycloid Race. The Physics Teacher, 29, 395-397.

Hood, C. (1993). Teaching about Quantum Theory. The Physics Teacher, 31, 290-293.

Hunt, R. (1993). Dancing to a Different Tune. The Physics Teacher, 31, 206-207.

Johns, R. (1998). Physics on a Rotating Reference Frame. The Physics Teacher, 36, 178-180.

Lane, B. (1993). Why Can't Physicists Draw FBD's. The Physics Teacher, 31, 216-217.

Leinoff, S. (1991). Ray Tracing with Virtual Objects. The Physics Teacher, 29, 275-277.

LoPresto, M. (1999). Another Look at Atwood's Machine. The Physics Teacher, 37, 82-83.

LoPresto, M. (1998). A Closer Look at the Spectrum of Helium. The Physics Teacher, 36, 172-173.

Maaka, M. & Ward, S. (2000). Content Area Reading in Community College Classrooms. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 24, 107-125.

O'Connell, J. (1999). Optics Experiments Using a Laser Pointer. The Physics Teacher, 37, 445-446.

Pasachoff, J. & Percy, J. (Eds.). (1990). The Teaching of Astronomy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Tavel, J. (1995). Two National Surveys of Two-Year College Physics Faculty. The Physics Teacher, 33, 85-90.

Walker, W. (1998). Teaching Astronomy Labs with RedShift 2. In A. Fraknoi (Ed.), Proceedings of the Symposium on Teaching Astronomy for Non-Science Majors (pp. 191-194). San Francisco, CA: Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Zheng, T., Mears, M., Hall, D., Pushkin, D., Jorgensen, S., Banks, K., Hyatt, R., & Shleyzer,Y. (1994). Teaching the Nonlinear Pendulum. The Physics Teacher, 32, 248-251.