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Paradigms in Physics

KC Walsh demonstrating physics equations and diagrams on a board

Learn to think like a physicist

Beginning in the fall of 1997, the OSU physics department restructured the junior and senior physics curriculum with the aid of a grant from the National Science Foundation. This curriculum represents a departure from the traditional one and is firmly rooted in courses of equal difficulty devoted to a particular subfield of physics. Our approach teaches physics as physicists think about it, namely in terms of concepts that broadly underlie the various subfields: energy, symmetry, wave motion, rotations and so forth. The major structural change during the junior year is that two separate traditional course sequences, running in parallel, have merged to form a single intensive sequence, to encourage mastery of the concepts as you go along. These "paradigms" courses, taken typically in the junior year, are followed by senior year "capstone" courses in each of the major sub-disciplines of physics.

Students with majors in related sciences, mathematics, and engineering are welcome to take one or more of the new courses. (Such students should consult one of the departmental advisors regarding possible alternatives to the posted prerequisites.)

Course information

Paradigms courses feature a wide variety of active-engagement teaching strategies, including Small Whiteboard Questions, collaborative problem-solving, kinesthetic activities, physical manipulatives, and computer visualization. Paradigms have innovative course structures that support these teaching strategies and organize the physics and math ideas in ways that are aligned with how professionals think.

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Instructors interested in our course material

Over the years, the Paradigms in Physics group at Oregon State University has built a rich (and getting richer) portfolio of educational materials. We are happy to share these materials with interested physics instructors.