Weekly Physics Journals

This year I’m asking my physics students to write a weekly journal response for our class.  Here are the questions they are answering.

1. What did I learn?
2. How did I learn it?
3. What questions am I wondering about?
4. If I were the teacher, what questions would I ask students to see if they understood the most important ideas of the week?

I was amazed at some of the things students said in their first journal prompt.  I can tell that many students (not all though) were thoughtfully reflecting on what they’d experienced during the week and took time to articulate and summarize their ideas.  Reading and responding to these using Edmodo took some time on my part, but I am convinced it was worthwhile after reading these this week.  Hopefully, they will continue to be useful as we move throughout the year. Below I’ve highlighted some of the more enlightening things students said.


“I found the few days we spent on discussing intelligence, knowledge, and learning to be very interesting- I was previously very rigid in my belief that intelligence is constant and an inherent trait, but now I believe otherwise.”


“Throughout the past week, I have gone from slightly confused to totally understanding the type of Physics class that I have taken participation. At the inception of the week, my thoughts were that the class was being taught about the behavior of pendulums. However, advancing through the week, I found that through actually observing the concept of the pendulum was to gain insight to the concept of models and experiments. By gathering data and depicting it on the graph through a single experiment (model), Mr. Evans was actually teaching us how to graph and plot data points, linearize a set of data and describe the difference between a model and an experiment. Genius I say!”


“This week I learned what a scientific model is, and how we can go about developing one. I learned this by doing an experiment and coming up with a set of rules with my group. I think it’s very helpful that we did everything ourselves because it was easier for me to remember what we came up with. If we were told to copy notes on the same subject, I’m sure that I wouldn’t have remembered it nearly as well as I did.”


“1. I learned that there are three types of uncertainty and that there are steps you can take to reduce them. Also, how to properly graph data with uncertainty ranges and what a model is. I learned that sometimes I need to think about concepts in general terms regarding their relationship to each other instead of always thinking about a problem numerically. 
2. I learned these things by doing the pendulum experiment and by using logger pro. I think that I understood concepts better when we talked about them as a group in our board meetings than I did by just looking at the experiment data so I will keep that in mind moving forward. 
3. Since there is no exact measurement for anything due to uncertainty I am wondering how people know how accurate they need to be when building something (a bridge or a space shuttle for example). 
4. If I were a teacher I would ask students why it is important to reduce uncertainty and the ways to do it. Also, I would ask them to graph data from an experiment and see if they could alter the axis to make it linear.”

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