YBPT: You be the physics teacher
A physics teacher today was asking me for some advice about a teaching situation. This teacher has been trying to incorporate more PBL into the the class, and came up with a great multi-day assignment to explore the physics of a fender bender where a car skidded out from traveling too quickly around a turn. Students had to work through a fairly real world problem that presented students an incomplete description of the scenario, and through their work, students had to decide what additional info they’d need, and how to measure it. Ultimately, this teacher even went on to procure two used car tires which the students cut up and used to measure the coefficient of friction between the road and the tire. It might be helpful to know that for most of the students in this class, this year is the first year they’ve been exposed to anything in science this open-ended and PBL-like.
The question came up about write up a student turned in, where the student complained about a lack of direction, and ultimately felt that much of the activity was a “waste of time,” and seemed to focus on all the various problems and uncertainties that come up when trying to make real world measurements.
So here’s where you get to be the physics teacher [YBPT*]. How would you handle this situation? How would you respond to the student?
I’ll put my own response in the comments, just to keep this an open invitation to share your ideas and suggestions.
*-Although I like the idea of starting up another blog series, I really don’t plan to turn this into an ongoing series.