Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL)
Professor John Belcher (Department of Physics)
Large lecture halls do not engage students sufficiently to master Introductory Physics. Students can learn more if they work directly with their Physics instructors and fellow students by doing hands-on experiments, rather than passively listening to lectures.
Replace MIT's large freshman Physics lectures with a studio format, in which one can engage students more fully by incorporating active learning methods into the Introductory Physics classroom, enabled by technology.
The Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) project has revamped 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 Professor 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, meant revamping the classroom itself. Animations and simulations have been incorporated into course materials to help students visualize and understand the complex interactions inherent in electromagnetism.
TEAL also takes advantage of an automated system for submission and electronic grading of problem sets, called WebAssign. Assignments are due the day before class sessions. This system gives the instructor immediate access to a summary of how the students are doing on an assignment, thereby allowing the instructor to tailor his/her next class to the particular needs of the current students. In this way, the instructor has gained the freedom to cover material that is more sophisticated, rather than spending time covering definitions from reading assignments.
More Project Details from the Principal Investigator
We have developed a new format for freshman Physics education at MIT that is designed to help students develop much better intuition about, and conceptual models of, physical phenomena. We are teaching in a Studio Physics classroom that was renovated for this purpose. The format is centered on an "active learning" approach — that is, a highly collaborative, hands-on environment, with extensive use of networked laptops and desktop experiments. We are using modern animation and applet technology delivered via laptops to complement this active learning approach. We are merging lecture, recitations, and hands-on laboratory experience into a technologically and collaboratively rich experience for incoming freshmen.
Students gather in groups of nine, with twelve or so such groups in a common area, for five hours per week. The students are exposed to a mixture of instruction, laboratory work with desktop experiments, and collaborative work in smaller groups of three, in a computer rich environment (one networked laptop per three students, with data acquisition links between laptop and experiments). The desktop experiments and computer-aided analysis of experimental data give the students direct experience with the basic phenomena. Formal and informal instruction, aided by media-rich interactive software for simulation and visualization, then help the students in their conceptualization of this experience. A major part of the visualization approach revolves around the use of 3D software to show phenomena that cannot normally be seen (e.g., electromagnetic field lines).
The project thus far has been a great success. This is clear from student and faculty reaction so far. The long term plan is to move away from the lecture/recitation model of teaching to this active learning format, enabled by technology. The first class we taught was 8.02T, freshman electromagnetism, during the Fall term of 2001, in which 180 students learned in this format. Over 600 students in the Spring of 2003 were taught in this format, as well as in the Fall of 2003, a TEAL version of 8.01, freshman mechanics. Eventually, all freshman Physics courses were taught in this format in the 2004-2005 academic year, with the exception of two small highly mathematical courses.
"The way we are doing this is to lecture a little bit, do problem solving, and do experiments. It's all continuous, it's all in context. And that's a much better way to teach concepts-some theory, then integrated experiments. A big part of this is putting the hands-on stuff back in." — Prof. John Belcher
"Today, for the first time in my life, I can say that I like Physics, because the class changed my point of view completely. I hope you will give this class again very soon, for the sake of all incoming freshmen." — Student in Physics, 8.02T
"We've been convinced by John's work that this is a better way to help students understand physics concepts. And it's the exact way we should be using technologies — to enhance the human interaction, not to encourage students to stay in their dorm rooms with their computers." — Prof. Marc Kastner, Physics Department Head
Andreas Sundquist, Dynamic Line Integral Convolution for Visualizing Stream Line Evolution, IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics Vol. 9, No. 3, July - September, 2003, pp. 273-282. View
John W. Belcher and Stanislaw Olbert, Field Line Motion In Classical Electromagnetism, American Journal of Physics, Vol. 71, No. 3, March 2003, pp. 220-228. View
Andreas Sundquist, Dynamic Line Integral Convolution for Visualizing Electromagnetic Phenomena, MIT Master’s Thesis in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, , and Senior Thesis in Physics, 2001.
Yehudit Judy Dori and John Belcher, Effect of Visualizations and Active Learning on Students' Understanding of Electromagnetism Concepts, National Association for Research In Science Teaching (NARST) Proceedings 2003. View
TEAL Report 5/2/2005 View
TEAL Teaching: TEAL is transforming physics education , MIT Spectrum Magazine, Winter 2004. View
J. Dori, J. Belcher, M. Bessette, M. Danziger, A. McKinney, and E. Hult, Technology for Active Learning, Materials Today , December 2003 pp. 44-49View
John W. Belcher, Increasing Student Understanding with TEAL , MIT Faculty Newsletter, October/November 2003. View
John W. Belcher, Studio Phyiscs at MIT , MIT Physics Department Newsletter 2001. View
Judy Dori and John Belcher, Improving Students' Understanding of Electromagnetism through Visualizations - A Large Scale Study, Paper to be given at the 2004 NARST Annual Meeting – the National Association for Research in Science Teaching Conference, Vancouver. View
P. Dourmashkin, Technology Enabled Active Learning at MIT, paper to be presented at the April 2004 Meeting of the American Physical Society in Denver Colorado.
John Belcher, Technology Enabled Active Learning in 8.02, talk at the MIT Biology Education Group Meeting, February 2004.
Judy Dori, The Relationships between Visualizations of Scientific Phenomena and Understanding Science, Invited talk at the 2003 Gordon Research Conference on Science Education and Visualization, 20-25 July 2003 Queen's College, Oxford, UK.
John Belcher, Using Visualization in Teaching Introductory Electromagnetism at MIT, Invited talk at the 2003 Gordon Research Conference on Science Education and Visualization, 20-25 July 2003 Queen's College, Oxford, UK.
John Belcher, The Medium Extends The Message: Teaching E&M Using Visualization, the January 2003 American Association of Physics Teachers National Meeting.
John Belcher et al., Five TEAL/Studio abstracts for the August 2002 American Association of Physics Teachers National Meeting by members of the TEAL Project. View abstracts
Judy Dori, Invited talk at the 2001 Gordon Research Conference on Science Education and Visualization August 5-10, 2001, Mt. Holyoke College.
John Belcher, Using Visualization in Teaching Electromagnetism, contributed talk at the 2001 Gordon Research Conference on Science Education and Visualization, August 5-10, 2001, Mt. Holyoke College.
John Belcher Presentation on TEAL/Studio to the MIT Department Heads Luncheon Meeting on 3/5/2001, luncheon for the chairs of all MIT academic departments, led by President Vest.
TEAL/Studio Group, Demonstration at MacVicar Day on 3/3/2001, for students, faculty, and members of the MIT Corporation.
Judy Dori on Assessing TEAL at the iCampus PI Seminar on 2/14/2001.
Judy Dori on Assessing TEAL at the PI Assessment Group on 1/18/2001.
John Belcher Presentation on TEAL/Studio to the Freshman Core Lecturers Meeting on 11/29/2000, the MIT freshman lecturers meeting.
John Belcher Presentation on TEAL/Studio to the Committee on the Undergraduate Program on 10/25/2000, the Institute Committee charged with overseeing the undergraduate program.
John Belcher Presentation on TEAL/Studio to the Physics Department Visiting Committee on 10/16/2000.
John Belcher Presentation on TEAL/Studio to CRSP, the Institute Space Committee (Provost and Chancellor, members) on 9/14/2000.
John Belcher Presentation on TEAL/Studio in the iCampus PI Reception Seminar, 9/13/2000.
Semi-finalist in the 2003 NSF/Science Visualization Contest (an International Competition). Our entry was Charged Particles Interacting In Three Dimensions