Supported SiteSupported Site University of Alabama: Course Reform


  • A physics pedagogy course has been developed and taught for Learning Assistants and new graduate Teaching Assistants.
  • A series of three one-hour courses on Science in Motion high school physics labs has been developed. The first two have now been successfully taught.
  • The introductory Studio Physics classes have been improved by the introduction of Learning Assistants in the classes.


  • The high school physics lab courses must be taught by someone with Science in Motion training and certification. Finding a TIR with these qualifications each year has been a challenge.
  • The number of students who can take introductory physics in the studio format is limited by enrollment demands and classroom sizes.


  • Learning outcome assessments are increasingly emphasized by the physics department and College of Arts & Sciences administration in all courses. Pre- and post-concept tests are required in all introductory physics and astronomy courses and a set of common questions are required on all introductory physics final exams.
  • Teaching effectiveness, including course learning gains and efforts at course reform, is an increasingly important factor in hiring, tenure, promotion, and salary raise decisions.

Lessons Learned

  • Faculty will accept or support reform of courses that they don't teach. However, implementing reform in introductory physics courses that involve multiple sections that many different faculty teach is much more challenging.
  • The high school labs courses are very valuable to General Science/Biology students who become certified to teach physics with only two courses in introductory physics.

Physics Pedagogy

  • The course was first taught in Fall 2011 for new graduate teaching assistants by Prof. Jones. It was team-taught in Fall 2012 by Profs. Jones and LeClair and revised to include both new Graduate Teaching Assistants and new LAs. In Fall 2013, Prof. LeClair and Ms. Wallace (TIR) team-taught the course, with further revisions to update content. The course has one hour of credit and addresses teaching methodologies for introductory physics based on recent results from physics education research.

High School Physics Labs I, II, III

  • These are new courses that did not exist before PhysTEC. Each of the three courses has one of hour credit and is taught by the TIR.

Studio Physics

  • Nearly one-half of our introductory physics (PH10x) students take physics in the Studio Physics format. Prior to PhysTEC the instructor was assisted by a Graduate Teaching Assistants and occasionally by an undergrad TA (not a Learning Assistant). Studio Physics was reformed during the first year of the PhysTEC project primarily by the introduction of at least one LA in each section.