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The calculus-based introductory physics course sequence (often integrated with laboratory experiences) is the most mathematically sophisticated introductory physics course offered at the undergraduate level, and is the first required physics course for students majoring in physics, chemistry, engineering, and other disciplines. The guidance in this section can be used both for physics programs that offer a single course sequence for all of these students, and for those that have separate tracks for students in different majors. These courses are where the department has its first contact with potential majors while serving diverse audiences of physical science and engineering students. They are also typically the physics courses, from among the department’s introductory courses, that have the lowest percentage representation of students from marginalized groups. The strategies within this section address translating program-level and course-level learning outcomes into appropriate content and pedagogy to best serve these populations of students while meeting your program learning outcomes and the learning outcomes of other programs these courses serve.
The introductory calculus-based course sequence serves the physics major and as the interface to other STEM departments. These courses offer the opportunity to recruit current students into the physics major and to influence future teachers of physics and other sciences. These courses often provide a critical service to the institution by providing a required major course for engineering, chemistry, and other departments, and when taught well, can help your department build relationships with other departments and your administration. In introductory courses, students develop a foundational understanding of fundamental concepts and models along with how they are used to analyze a multitude of situations. The knowledge and skills built in introductory courses, such as content knowledge, mathematical skills, problem-solving skills, reasoning, and metacognitive skills, can serve as the foundation for the physics major. These courses deserve careful attention as they have the potential to improve retention in the STEM disciplines, particularly among marginalized groups. Implementing research-based instructional practices have been shown to effectively engage students in the introductory courses, promote reasoning, improve success rates and retention, and provide opportunities for involving students in instructional activities through roles such as learning assistants and teaching assistants.
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