red Supported Site Arizona State University: Course Reform


  • PHS 110 Fundamentals of Physical Science, a general studies course for non-science majors, was reformed to make the lecture portion encourage more student interaction. The lab sections were revised to provide student experience with physical phenomena prior to their introduction in lecture.
    • Reforms were implemented in several sections of the large PHY 121 University Physics I: Mechanics course.
    • LAs were trained to interact with students throughout the PHY 121 lecture as requested by the instructor, and work with students during recitation hours provided weekly.
    • Beginning in fall 2013, TIR created a map of the large lecture hall and designated individual LAs to specific sections, making it easier for LAs to access students and for students to identify with individual LAs.
    • 'DEW' rate (the percentage of students who Withdrew from the course, or scored a D or E-failing-grade in the course) PHY 121 changed from 55% overall to 14% overall with the implementation of LAs.
    • In fall 2014, Dr. Adams and TIR will teach two sections of PHY 121 which will operate as a flipped class. This class will also utilize LAs.
  • PHY 118 Explorations of Science Teaching was developed and will be offered as a new course and part of a new Physics degree program focused on secondary education starting spring 2013.
  • PHY 494/598 Seminar in Teaching and Learning Physics course was offered for the first time in fall 2012.
  • Development of plans for a SCALE-UP classroom. (Scheduled to open July 2014.) This classroom will house the new flipped PHY 121 course as well as many other physics courses. This classroom's design will encourage student and instructor interaction, which is typically lacking in large lecture courses.
  • Incorporation of LAs in the new Student Success Center. (Opened in January 2013.)


  • The layout of the existing lecture hall for PHY 121 is poorly suited for using LAs.
  • The expense of developing a SCALE-UP classroom is high, but was finally approved and is nearly complete.


  • PHY 118 was approved and made a requirement in the new degree program BS (Physics) with a Concentration in Education.

Lessons Learned

[PHS 110 Fundamentals of Physical Science]

  • Prior to PhysTEC, this general studies course for non-science majors was textbook-driven and lecture-based, adhering very little to ideas from Physics Education Research. Now taught by the TIR, the course is driven by the two-hour weekly laboratory experiences. The twice-weekly "lecture" time now involves collaborative group work, sharing of lab results and analysis, and frequent whiteboarding sessions.

[PHY 118 Explorations in Science Teaching]

  • Prior to PhysTEC, this course had not been available for several years and was originally offered by another department. It was geared towards future elementary school teachers. This course has now been re-written to be offered by the physics department, and now provides an early teaching experience for STEM majors to interest them in pursuing a career in education, with special emphasis placed upon middle school and high school physical science.

[PHY 121 University Physics I: Mechanics]

  • · only, with no time for interactive group work. The weekly recitation sessions were run by one traditionally trained graduate Teaching Assistant. With the advent of the PhysTEC program, the large-lecture sessions now focus upon interactive group problems with the assistance of a circulating team of undergraduate Learning Assistants. Weekly recitations are now run by teams of two assistants, typically one graduate TA and an undergraduate LA.
  • The flipped class, taught by TIR and Dr. Adams in fall 2014, will split the traditional course enrollment (196) in half and two smaller sections will be offered. The large lecture hall that normally houses this class does not offer much room or opportunity to initial group work. The SCALE-UP classroom and smaller enrollment size will change the dynamic of the class to emphasize group interaction and in-class problem sets.