TEAL- Technology Enabled Active Learning

Also funded by the Alex and Brit d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education

Principal Investigators:
A TEAL Classroom Prof. John W. Belcher - Dept. of Physics

Project Overview:

The TEAL project is revamping the way introductory physics classes are taught at MIT. Physics is an experimental science, but many of the introductory level classes taught at MIT involve no hands-on laboratories. Modeled after the Studio Physics format instituted by Prof. Jack Wilson at Rennsaeler Polytechnic Institute in 1994, the TEAL format combines lecture, recitation, and hands-on laboratory experiments into one classroom experience which, in this case, even means revamping the classroom itself. In addition, animations and simulations are incorporated into course materials to help students visualize and understand fields the complex interactions inherent in electromagnetism. The goal of TEAL is to engage students more fully and help spark student's fascination with the subject matter. The fall 2001 semester of 8.02 (electricity and magnetism) will be the pilot of the new TEAL format


Studio Physics

The lecture format, while the standard at most academic institutions, often leaves something to be desired. TEAL is attempting to combat low attendance by incorporating " active engagement " methods into the lecture format. More specifically, this means that short intervals of formal instruction are interspersed with desktop experiments and collaborative work in groups.

TEAL is also taking advantage of an automated system for submission and electronic grading of problem sets (WebAssign). Assignments will be due the day before class sessions. This system gives the instructor access to a summary of how the students did on an assignment just after the submission deadline, allowing the instructor to tailor his next class to the particular needs of his current students. This gives the instructor the freedom to cover material that is more sophisticated, rather than spending time covering definitions from reading assignments.

The Classroom

The studio physics classroom is designed for moving between lecture, experiment, and discussion portions of the class. It consists of 11 round tables that seat 9 students each. In the center of the room is an instructor's station used to present material that can then be projected on eight projection screens located around the perimeter of the room. Also located along the perimeter of the room are numerous whiteboards available for impromptu discussions and presentations by both staff and students. On each table are three laptops, provided for the students to work in teams of three on experiments and problems assigned in class.

An Animation Visualization

In moving to the Studio Physics format, TEAL is benefiting from the experience of many institutions outside of MIT that have pioneered that format. The research component of TEAL is adapting this format to fit the unique set of capabilities of the MIT student body. In the course on electromagnetism the research focus is evaluating the effectiveness of using modern visualization techniques to help students understand fields and their effects. Animations allow the student to student to gain insight into the way in which fields transmit forces, by watching how the motions of material objects evolve in time in response to those forces. Other simulations created as JAVA applets provide more interactive demonstration of concepts that allow students to enter their own data and watch the results

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