From Random Walks to Brownian Motion, from Diffusion to Entropy, From Order to Chaos: Adding Biofocus and adopting SCALEUP in the Introductory Physics Class (at the same time)
Mark Reeves, Department of Physics, George Washington University
Entropy changes underlie the physics that dominates biological interactions. Indeed, introductory biology courses often begin with an exploration of the qualities of water that are important to living systems. However, one idea that is often not addressed is the dominant contribution of the entropy of water molecules in driving biologically important processes towards equilibrium. For students, this slight is compounded by many introductory physics courses that have deemphasized entropy, almost to the point of eliminating it entirely. In contrast, we are teaching this concept in our introductory physics and biology classes.
It can be argued that creating a student-centered classroom also decreases order with the benefit of increasing student understanding and engagement. Coincident with reforming our calculus-based course to add bio-focused content, we began to teach the class using SCALEUP pedagogy. Many things we tried worked and many did not. Initially, even though student achievement was high, student satisfaction was low. In this talk, I discuss content and pedagogy, what worked and what didn't, and what were the crucial interventions that helped us to turn the corner to create a moderately successful class. And, since we are not done yet, I will talk about where we are still not succeeding and seek input from the MSU community.