Physics is a deeply conceptual class. Its not like English class, where everyone already knows what English is. People enter an English classroom already knowing what a story is, what characters are, what a theme is, and what a moral is. In stark contrast, students generally start physics from scratch.
The human themes discussed by Shakespeare or Homer are universal, and intuitively understood by even the least prepared of readers. Students may not know much about Elizabethan England, or ancient Greece, but they know what it means to be happy, sad, angry, jealous. This is not so, however, with concepts in physics. Student entering a physics class often have no meaningful understanding of conservation laws, or Newton’s laws of motion. Outside of AP Physics we usually are teaching from the ground level upwards.
No teaching method, homework assignment, or pedagogical technique has much effect on student performance – unless that student takes time to engage in internal mental reflection.
When students review at home what we learned in class,
When students think about what happened, and why it happened,
When students compare their preconceptions to what they have observed
only they are engaging in internal mental reflection.
If a student chooses not do this, then there is little a teacher can add. We can explain it for you, but we can’t understand it for you.
This is one reason why some students struggle. Doing classwork has only limited usefulness, unless one internally reflects on the subject.
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