Help me figure out which article to write

I have had four paper proposals accepted to the journal Physics in Canada, which is the official journal of the Canadian Association of Physicists. I will only be submitting one paper and would love to hear some opinions on which one to write and submit. I will briefly summarize what they are looking for according to the call for papers and then summarize my own proposals.

Note: My understanding is that the tone of these would be similar to articles appearing in the Physics Teacher.

Call for Papers

Call for papers in special issue of Physics in Canada on Physics Educational Research (PER) or on teaching practices:

  • Active learning and interactive teaching (practicals, labatorials, studio teaching, interactive large classes, etc.)
  • Teaching with technology (clickers, online homework, whiteboards, video- analysis, etc)
  • Innovative curricula (in particular, in advanced physics courses)
  • Physics for non-physics majors (life sciences, engineers, physics for non-scientists)
  • Outreach to high schools and community at large

The paper should be 1500 maximum.

My proposals

“Learning before class” or pre-class assignments

  • This article would be a how-to guide on using reading and other types of assignments that get the students to start working with the material before they show up in class (based on some blog posts I previously wrote).

Use of authentic audience in student communication

  • Often, when we ask student to do some sort of written or oral communication, we ask that they target that communication toward a specific imagined audience, but the real audience is usually the grader. In this article I will discuss some different ideas (some I have tried, some I have not) to have student oral and written tasks have authentic audiences; audiences that will be the target audience and actually consume those communication tasks. This follows on some work I did this summer co-facilitating a writing across the curriculum workshop based on John Bean’s Engaging Ideas

Making oral exams less intimidating

Update your bag of teaching practices

  • This would be a summary of (mostly research-informed) instructional techniques that your average university might not be aware of. I would discuss how they could be implemented in small and large courses and include appropriate references for people that wanted to learn more. Techniques I had in mind include pre-class assignments, group quizzes and exams, quiz reflection assignments, using whiteboards in class, and clicker questions beyond one-shot ConcepTests (for example, embedding clicker questions in worked examples).

Your help

And where you come in is to provide me with a bit of feedback as to which article(s) would potentially be of the most interest to an audience of physics instructors that will vary from very traditional to full-on PER folks.

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8 Comments on “Help me figure out which article to write”

  1. AMCDawes says:

    Great timing on this post! Somewhat selfishly I am most interested in the use of authentic audiences for writing assignments. We should chat more about your workshop as I have just recently applied for a position here at Pacific as the Assistant Dean of Excellence in Teaching (a position that comes with the expectation of making progress on integrating writing across the curriculum).

    My second choice would be the “bag of teaching practices” simply because it is a nice format for others to get an overview of what is new and pick up some good tips.

    • Joss Ives says:

      Hey Andy. Best wishes on earning the position and thanks for the input.

      I certainly would be happy to chat about the workshop. I would suggest reading Bean’s book that I discuss above. There were a lot of pieces in the book that I didn’t think applied to writing in physics until I had a chance to discuss the ideas in the book with my fantastic workshop co-facilitators. He does a good job in the book of presenting examples from many disciplines, including some from physics, but I needed those conversations to help me really connect with his ideas. If I don’t end up writing the authentic audience article for Physics in Canada, I expect to write some combination of blog post and actual Physics Teacher article on it in the near future.

      I think I am leaning slightly toward the “bag of teaching practices” due to it being of potential use to the broadest range of people.

  2. I’m not a physics teacher, but …

    It isn’t clear that making oral exams less intimidating will be seen as an important goal—oral exams are rarely used except in grad school formal requirements.

    No one is going to believe that you have a way to change their students’ pre-class behavior (even if you do).

    Of the two remaining proposals, I think that the authentic audience is the more important message It also provides more focus than the “bag of tricks”, which is going to matter with a 1500-word limit.

    In fact, I would probably have picked authentic audience as the most important of the four for physics teachers to hear.

    • Joss Ives says:

      You make an excellent point about the challenge of the “bag of tricks” article in the face of the 1500-word limit. I came to a similar realization yesterday which I sat down to outline the article. Thanks for the input!

  3. adamdoneill says:

    I really like the pre class assignment stuff Joss. Backwards homework rules.

  4. Hi Joss,

    I like the idea of updating teaching practices, but with a slant. I think it should be said that professional obligations mean that teachers should always be trying to improve their practice. Your paper could partially focus on ways for teachers to independantly look and find new practices.

    • Joss Ives says:

      Hi Doug. Thanks for your input. I did end up going with the teaching practices one, but once I started writing it, the scope became narrowed and it ended up being an article on my use of weekly quizzes that have a follow-up group component and a self-diagnosis activity when the quizzes are returned. I will post a copy of it to arxiv.


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