At sixth-form level, students are often trained to solve physics problems by selecting a selecting one of a small number of standard methods and turning the handle get to a final answer. This is not the aim of these classes.
The Stage 1 problems classes train students to construct and present their own solutions to problems. It is largely an exercise in the development, presentation and criticism of a rational argument in writing. Students need to explain what physical assumptions and laws they are use, and the logical and mathematical steps they take by presenting them in a form that one of their peers can follow and verify or correct. The exercise is analogous to developing a piece of theory to explain experimental data and presenting it as a section in a research paper that is then peer-reviewed.
The cycle of solving problems, and problems-classes, requires students to prepare work that one of their peers can evaluate. In the class, the roles swap they become the referee and must evaluate another's work and judge the extent that it presents a correct coherent solution to the problem. They must try to diagnose misconceptions and errors in the solution where their colleague went wrong. In order to provide useful feedback, they must exercise judgement when assigning marks. Learning to evaluate the work of others is an essential part of the process of learning to self-evaluate one's own work.
These are high-level skills, and developing them requires active engagement by in the process.
Stage 1 students take two core physics modules in each term. Problems are broadly split into 'Section A' questions, which are relatively straightforward problems designed to reinforce knowledge and test a student's ability to apply facts and techniques learned in the module. 'Section B' questions are more substantial and may take 2-3 times as long to answer as the section A questions. These train students to plan and execute multi-stage problems, and may sometimes draw on knowledge from areas from outside the module. Each complete problems set should take a typical student 4 hours to complete (i.e. 2 hours per module.)
|Sec. A||Sec. B||Sec. A||Sec. B|
|T1:01||-||-||-||-||-||Lecture - Plagiarism and Academic Honesty|
Talk - Introduction to the IoP.
|T1:02||-||-||-||-||-||Lecture - Solving and presenting solutions to problems|
|T1:03||4||2||8||-||PHY1021||Problem Set 1 (Issued in T1:02)|
|T1:04||-||-||-||-||-||Midterm Test 1|
|T1:05||8||-||4||2||PHY1022||Problem Set 2 (Issued in T1:04)|
|T1:06||-||-||-||-||-||PHY0000 & eXfactor (Opportunities Week)|
|T1:07||4||2||8||-||PHY1021||Problem Set 3 (Issued in T1:05)|
|T1:08||8||-||4||2||PHY1022||Problem Set 4 (Issued in T1:07)|
|T1:09||-||-||-||-||-||Midterm Test 2|
|T1:10||4||2||8||-||PHY1021||Problem Set 5 (Issued in T1:08)|
|T1:11||8||-||4||2||PHY1022||Problem Set 6 (Issued in T1:10)|
|T1:12||4||2||8||-||PHY1021||Problem Set 7 (Issued in T1:11)|
The pattern for PHY1023/PHY1024 is similar:
|Sec. A||Sec. B||Sec. A||Sec. B|
|T2:01||-||-||-||-||-||Lecture(s) - Replacements for Bank holidays, etc.|
|T2:02||-||-||-||-||-||Lecture(s) - Replacements for Bank holidays, etc.|
|T2:03||8||-||4||2||PHY1024||Problem Set 1 (Issued in T2:02)|
|T2:04||-||-||-||-||-||Midterm Test 1|
|T2:05||4||2||8||-||PHY1023||Problem Set 2 (Issued in T2:04)|
|T2:06||8||-||4||2||PHY1024||Problem Set 3 (Issued in T2:05)|
|T2:07||4||2||8||-||PHY1023||Problem Set 4 (Issued in T2:06)|
|T2:08||-||-||-||-||-||Midterm Test 2|
|T2:09||8||-||4||2||PHY1024||Problem Set 5 (Issued in T2:07)|
|T2:10||4||2||8||-||PHY1023||Problem Set 6 (Issued in T2:09)|
|T2:11||8||-||4||2||PHY1024||Problem Set 7 (Issued in T2:10)|
See also: Code of Practice for Problems Class Demonstrators.