You are here

PHYS 503 A: Tutorials in Teaching Physics

M 2:00pm - 3:50pm / * *
W 1:30pm - 2:20pm / * *
Joint Sections: 
PHYS 403 A
Photo of Nikolai
Nikolai Tolich

Syllabus Description:

Welcome to PHYS 503.  My name is Nikolai Tolich (he/him), and I will be your instructor.

In this class everyone is welcome, regardless of other identities you hold in addition to that of physics student.  I expect everyone in this class to treat each other with respect.


Phys 503 is part of the Phys 501-502-503 series.  These courses are designed to prepare teaching assistants (TAs) to teach introductory physics tutorials and labs.

  • Phys 501 prepares TAs for Phys 121
  • Phys 502 prepares TAs for Phys 122
  • Phys 503 prepares TAs for Phys 123

Each quarter we will also introduce different aspects of education research and classroom management.  This quarter the topics include:

  • Growth versus fixed mindset
  • Strategies for getting groups to work together
  • Student-TA interactions
  • Implicit bias
  • Think-pair-share

New TAs in the physics department are required to complete the Phys 501-502-503 series to be considered for future TA positions.  You can take these courses in any order, and you do not need to do them in consecutive quarters.  The course you take will depend on your TA assignment in that quarter, so you should enroll after you have been given your TA assignment.  Over your first quarters as a TA in the physics department you will be assigned as a TA for each of Phys 121, 122 and 123, but not necessarily in that order.

Contact Information

You can contact me by sending an email to

Course Material

No material is required for purchase.  We will provide digital copies of any material required for this course.


The course is split into the following two parts:

  • On Mondays we will meet from 2:00 to 3:50 pm to prepare you for that week's Phys 123 tutorial and lab.
  • On Wednesdays students in Phys 501, 502 and 503 will meet together, and we will discuss aspects of education research and classroom management.
  • Week Date Monday Wednesday
    1 9/28 No class Introduction
    2 10/5 Prep Student-TA interactions
    3 10/12 Prep Grading
    4 10/19 Prep Strategies for getting groups to work together
    5 10/26 Prep Growth versus fixed mindset
    6 11/2 Prep Implicit bias
    7 11/9 Prep No class
    8 11/16 Prep Think-pair-share
    9 11/23 Check in No class
    10 11/30 Prep ??
    11 12/7 Prep No class


You are required to attend the Monday and Wednesday class meetings and to participate.  Each meeting will be graded based on the following rubric:

  • Adequate (2 points): Actively engaged in discussion.
  • Needs improvement (1 point): Did not significantly contribute to discussion.
  • Missing (0 points): Did not attend.

If you cannot attend a class meeting, let me know as soon as possible so that you can be excused, and we can make arrangements for you to make up the missed meeting.

If you get a score of 1 point for a meeting, we will meet so that we can discuss expectations.

This is credit/no-credit course.  To get credit you must have no unexcused absences, and you can have 1 point for no more than two meetings.

Access and accommodation

Your experience in this class is important to me, so if you have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but are not limited to: mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical), please contact DRS to arrange accommodations.

Safe campus

I am committed to ensuring a safe environment on campus.  I encourage you to check out the resources available here.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities.  The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (  Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (


Catalog Description: 
Preparation for teaching introductory physics; use and critical analysis of instructional materials in a collaborative learning environment; supervised teaching practicum in which instructional materials are used with undergraduates. Credit/no-credit only. Offered: Sp.
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:22pm