A Note to Instructors from the
Before I began this project, I was
not aware of just how many people are involved in writing a textbook. After
all, the cover lists only the authors. Now I know that each chapter is read by
many colleagues, like you, from around the country. Their comments not only allow me to hone the book into something I hope you will find useful
in your classrooms, but also provide an opportunity to have a dialogue on
topics that I love—physics and teaching. I have learned a great deal, and I
thank all my colleagues for being part of this dialogue.
When I decided to pursue physics
and astrophysics, I didn’t think about teaching; I just knew I was interested
in the subjects. As a graduate student at the University of Minnesota,
I won a fellowship that included training in physics education by well-known
figures in physics education research (PER). I learned to take teaching
seriously, and when it was time to find a job, I knew I wanted to work at an
institution committed to undergraduate education.
Fortunately, I found that job at
the United States
I have had the opportunity to teach a yearlong calculus-based course not just
to physics majors but also to a varied audience with a diverse set of
abilities, interests, learning styles, and preconceptions. To engage my
students in the process of learning physics, I use many of the techniques that
have come out of PER, and over the past couple of decades, my students have
taught me how to teach them. I have tried my best to integrate the lessons
learned from my students into the pages of this text.
Although PER offers many ways to
approach teaching, all of these approaches require students to take an active
part in their education while I act as a coach, urging them to take the
necessary steps. There is a wide range of pedagogy in introductory physics, but
one thing is always true: Students do better if they read their textbook.
were originally written for previous generations of students. Although these books have been updated for content, today’s students don’t find them
readable. (My students easily read 100 pages of history but find it difficult
to get through five pages of physics.) My primary goal in writing Physics for Scientists and Engineers was
to make it readable without compromising content, because I believe that our
students are willing and able to read a book they find engaging.
Students in required
courses often tell us that they don’t understand how physics fits into their
lives. So to make physics engaging, I use case studies in my classroom and in
my book. Case studies relate interesting topics to the concepts, principles,
and tools of physics. (In my class, students write their own case studies,
relating such topics as sports, movies, and history to physics concepts.)
Case studies also
help students realize how the preconceptions they have developed over decades
of observation tie into the formalism of physics. For example, students know
that seat belts keep passengers in cars, but they are not usually aware of the
connection between that fact and Newton’s
first law. To make and reinforce these types of connections, some case studies
use a dialogue between fictional students to highlight and clarify commonly
held misidentified preconceptions.
Of course we know
(as did our teachers) that physics is not learned passively. We expect students to learn physics by solving problems. While recent editions of traditional
textbooks have begun to include problem-solving strategies, many steps
in example problems are still not well explained and often seem mysterious to
students. I found that students understand examples better when I use
a two-column format. The column on the right contains the formalism you would
typically find in a textbook or write on the classroom board. The left column
includes the words you might use to explain each step.
I hope you’ll find
this textbook program to be a better learning tool for your students than what
has previously been available.
Thank you for
taking the time to consider this Advance Edition for your classroom use. If
you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.