Offering Asynchronous Resources to Develop Skills in Physics

Students and teachers are thrilled to continue in-person instruction this year, but some lessons learned during virtual learning are coming in handy.

"Reflecting on lockdown teaching, I was struck that while it is essentially no one's preferred mode of operation, asynchronous instruction does have its advantages," explained Upper School Science Teacher Dan Baxter.

For students in Mr. Baxter's Honors Physics class, he is offering a hybrid physics skills course that runs in conjunction with classroom instruction.

"I personally am a big fan of asynchronous/self-paced learning for certain aspects, having used Khan Academy since I was very young," shared Albert Chen '23. "Some people grasp certain concepts faster than others. Asynchronous learning allows for everyone to learn the prerequisite skills at their own pace. It helps ensure that the class can move at a brisk pace without leaving any students behind."

"Students can work at their own pace, and take more responsibility for their learning, and ultimately develop better independent learning skills," said Mr. Baxter. "The goal is to develop key skills for students, free up time in class for practical activities, and act as ongoing reference material throughout the course."

"If there's one thing I miss about remote learning, it would be the flexibility to do asynchronous work," said Ashley Kim '23. "I like how the physics skills course gives us the option to work on specific areas of improvement at our own pace."

The modules reinforce general skills in physics, math, and important lab skills. Mr. Baxter produced the units over the summer through the Corrigan-Beinkampen Faculty Enrichment Endowment Fund.

"The Lab Skills module is the most extensive," said Mr. Baxer. "I'm aware that during lab tasks, I would often troubleshoot similar problems for different students repeatedly throughout the activity, so being able to direct students toward a clear, detailed resource is hugely beneficial."

"I really find the write-ups and videos that Mr. Baxter provides extremely helpful in explaining the core concepts of designing and executing a good experiment," said Albert.

Modules consist of instruction, examples, extra reading, and 11 videos that demonstrate an entire experiment. "I talk students through each stage and the thinking behind them," said Mr. Baxter. "This also has the additional benefit of clarifying my expectations for the completion of labs for students centrally, simultaneously, and uniformly."

As students progress through the modules, quizzes are offered to assess how well they understand the material.

Mr. Baxter plans to expand the supplemental modules for Honors Physics 2 students in the spring when the course will be offered for the first time.

"Talking with colleagues, there seems to be a good appetite to expand this hybrid mode of learning to cover review of prerequisite course concepts, and other skills- such as using a calculator correctly!" said Mr. Baxter.

"I feel mastery learning is the key to preventing students from falling behind in a classroom environment where there is constant pressure to keep moving forward," said Albert. "Learning is cumulative and losing a student any step along the way means that they will have a hard time grasping concepts that build on previously learned knowledge."