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Rob Phillips's picture

The idea behind these Work It Out videos is so simple but so important. For so many years we have just assumed that students know how to use formulae and interpret diagrams. This is just not the case. Some complex abstract thinking is required to understand these techniques (not sure if this is the right word). This abstract thinking is hard to learn, and it is rarely taught.

Do you think that there should be a more basic video and exercise to start to build this type of thinking?

Designing an experiment

The ‘story’ behind this video is that my tutors were helping me to evaluate the lab work that we do with our first year students. It was created in answer to the students question “Why do we do labs?” Again the viewer is the fly-on-the-wall watching what is going on without the risk of being preached to.

By labs students mean cook-book type ‘experiments’ that are done in a dedicated room and have a formatted write-up. They do not consider the open-ended experimental design activities that we do in tutorials to be labs.

TEXTBook - Your personal trainer

“Why do we have to purchase this expensive textbook when there are plenty of resources on the net?” is a common question from my students and sometimes I wondered that myself while hefting the latest tomb down from a shelf to look something up. So I put on my old thinking cap and came up with a few reasons. Then I surveyed my peers to find out if they still recommended textbooks to their students and if so why. The total sum of this work is expressed in the video below.

Interrogating Formulae

Here again one of my tutors is advocating on the part of the students, this time with regard to formulas.

Many students have a simplistic view of what a formula can be used for. They see it as a ‘black box’ that turns given information into answers and if they choose the formula that the teacher is using, they will get the ‘right’ answer.

A Toolbox of Diagrams

Formula and diagrams are forms of communication in many disciplines, not just the sciences. This video, A Toolbox of Diagrams, allows the viewer to eavesdrop on a discussion between a tutor and lecturer about why diagrams are included in their students learning environment and how the lecturer wants the tutor to approach discussions about diagrams when working with the students.

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