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Chapter 2 Executive Summary of Lessons Learned

This study examines what happened when we initiated (1996-2005), sustained (2006-2015), re-envisioned (2016), and then changed instruction (2016-17) in the Paradigms in Physics Program, as well as monitored and refined the new changes underway (2017-19) . Part II presents summaries of what we learned in bulleted suggestions for others interested in and/or engaged in reforming curricula. Below is an executive summary of these summaries:

  • Be collaborative:

    • Engage a small group of volunteers who want change to happen to do the hard work of design and implementation;
    • Involve and inform every faculty member in small ways throughout the process;
    • Involve and inform the chair of the department in small ways throughout the process;
    • Seek consensus and sense of department ownership of proposed changes.
  • Be cogent:

    • Engage all faculty members in identifying major themes that the curriculum should address;
    • Track throughout the curriculum the development, interconnections among, and use of:

      • core concepts;
      • high priority mathematical techniques;
      • essential laboratory practices;
      • professional skills (reading, writing, presenting scientific studies).
    • Think broadly across courses for major rather than iteratively for particular courses.
  • Be strategic:

    • Use a colloquium to inform faculty of the anticipated process and of their expected level of participation;
    • Survey faculty via an online questionnaire to find out what issues seem most pressing;
    • Midway in the process, meet with faculty individually to share progress and discuss each member's concerns with tentative proposed revision of courses;
    • Schedule separate meetings to provide written information and to discuss proposed plans before faculty vote on the proposed reform.
  • Be efficient:

    • Form a small committee of volunteers and meet often for defined time frame;
    • Delegate work appropriately so that each committee member focuses on curricular areas with which familiar and assumes responsibility for interacting with colleagues about whose likely concerns this member may be knowledgeable;
    • Use a column of index cards for each course to convey the tentative revision of content under discussion;
    • Meet where this visual display of tentative revisions can be left in place and visited for informal discussion by a committee member with individual faculty between committee meetings.
  • Be patient and persistent:

    • Keep meeting and discussing until issues get resolved even if takes a long time;
    • Accept and enact partial progress.