The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Physics 101, Spring 2008

Instructor:  Dr. Duane L. Deardorff

Course | Book | Philosophy | Course work | Grades | Resources

Daily Class Schedule | Web Project | Student Groups  | Service Learning

Class times and location

Class meets:  MWF  10:00 to 10:50 AM  in 247 Phillips Hall

Instructor contact information

Duane L. Deardorff
Office hours: Wednesdays after class in the Physics Tutorial Center (Phillips 245) or by appointment
Office: 203 Phillips Hall
Office phone: 962-3013

Course description

Physics 101 is an introductory physics course for non-science majors.  This course focuses on basic physics concepts and connections to everyday life.  Course topics include Newtonian mechanics, fluids, heat, vibrations, electricity and magnetism, light and sound, quantum phenomenon, nuclear radiation, relativity, and cosmology.  Connections to everyday life and society include energy conservation, global warming, nuclear energy, the origin of the universe, pseudoscience, and the search for extraterrestrial life.  While advanced mathematics is not required for this course, basic math with some trigonometry and simple algebra is utilized.  Proportional reasoning, estimating, and graphing skills are emphasized throughout the course.  Overall goals of this course include students' gaining an appreciation for the physical world, improved critical thinking and reasoning skills, and improved scientific literacy for a better-informed public that can make intelligent voting decisions.  Concurrent enrollment in a Physics 101 lab is required since the lab grade is included in the 4-credit hour course grade.


Physics: Concepts and Connections, 4th ed. by Art Hobson (published by Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2007)
Note:  This book is available electronically from Safarix for about half the price of a new print edition.

Physics 101 Laboratory Manual, (available from UNC Student Stores, Course Pack Publishing, Spring 2008)

Instructional Philosophy

Through this course, you will have the opportunity to analyze the physical world around you and improve your critical thinking skills. The instruction for this course places significant emphasis on qualitative physical reasoning as an important foundation to quantitative problem solving. The instruction focuses on student-centered learning and involves active participation from the students.  The instructor will act more as a "coach" who facilitates student learning, as opposed to a "lecturer" who transmits knowledge without necessarily requiring thought or action on the part of the student.  Since the instructional focus is on learning rather than teaching, students are expected to take more responsibility for their own learning than might be required in a more traditional lecture format.  To the extent possible, the instruction is aimed to meet a variety of learning styles.  You are encouraged to spend a few minutes examining your own learning style using the on-line Index of Learning Styles survey.
Critical Thinking
Most students take this course to fulfill a General Education perspective requirement, so the level of instruction is not as rigorous as a course for students who plan to major in physics.  However, you will be expected to comprehend fundamental concepts and apply physical reasoning to a variety of situations.  Many students find physics difficult because it goes beyond memorization by requiring higher level thinking skills (levels 4 through 6 below).  Learning physics is also like learning a foreign language since new words and symbols must be understood and applied correctly within the context of various physical situations.
Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain:
    1.  Knowledge - memorization of facts, words, and symbols
    2.  Comprehension - understanding the meaning of knowledge
    3.  Application - applying concepts to various situations
    4.  Analysis - breaking apart complex ideas
    5.  Synthesis - putting individual ideas together to form a complete explanation
    6.  Evaluation - judging the merits of individual ideas and making decisions
Not only are these skills needed for physics, but employers consistently rank critical thinking and problem-solving ability near the top of their list of desired traits in valued employees.
Collaborative Group Work
This course encourages collaborative teamwork, which has multiple benefits for you both as a student and in your career.  Most jobs require at least some interaction with other people, and consequently, most employers place a high value on their employees' ability to work well with other people. Also, many good ideas and solutions to problems grow out of discussions with colleagues. As many teachers will attest, you will find that the concepts covered in this course will become clearer to you as you discuss and explain problem solutions to your peers. As you work together, you should help your peers to understand confusing points, ask each other questions, and carefully critique any group assignments. You can learn a great deal by teaching each other!

Course Work


Course grades (+/-) will be assigned based on your overall, weighted class average as follows:

Weighting Scheme and Letter Grade Divisions
Class Participation

Web Project
Exams (3)

Final Exam

Learning Resources