Welcome to PHYS 401-402-403. The instructors of these courses are:
- Peter Shaffer (he/him) for PHYS 401
- Kazumi Tolich (she/her) for PHYS 402
- Nikolai Tolich (he/him) for PHYS 403
In this class everyone is welcome, regardless of other identities you hold in addition to that of physics student. We expect everyone in this class to treat each other with respect.
Note on mode of operation:
This class is conducted in-person. Students are expected to participate in class to fully benefit from course activities and meet the course’s learning objectives. Students should only register for this class if they are able to attend in-person. To protect their fellow students, faculty, and staff, students who feel ill or exhibit possible COVID symptoms should not come to class. When absent, it is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor in advance (or as close to the class period as possible in the case of an unexpected absence).
Phys 401-402-403 prepares you to teach the material related to the labs and tutorials in the introductory physics courses.
- PHYS 401 discusses the lab and tutorial material in Phys 121.
- PHYS 402 discusses the lab and tutorial material in Phys 122.
- PHYS 403 discusses the lab and tutorial material in Phys 123.
The courses also give students a chance to strengthen their understanding of introductory physics concepts and the connections between the physics formalism, the underlying models, and real-world phenomena.
Each quarter we will also introduce different aspects of education research and classroom management. This quarter, the planned topics include:
- Promoting Effective Groups
- Student-TA interactions
- Observations of an active classroom
- Implicit bias
PHYS 401-402-403 counts towards the physics capstone requirement. Successful completion of PHYS 401-402-403 also makes you eligible to be hired as a paid undergraduate teaching assistant in the labs and tutorials of the corresponding introductory course in the physics department should there be an open position. You can take these courses in any order, and you do not need to do them in consecutive quarters.
By the end of this course, students will demonstrate the ability to:
- Understand introductory physics concepts and the connections between the physics formalism, the underlying models, and real-world phenomena well enough to teach those topics.
- Teach students in PHYS 121/122/123 tutorial and lab sections with an awareness of best pedagogical practices.
- Prepare and present a short lesson on a physics topic that addresses common misconceptions among elementary, middle, or high school students, guided by physics education research.
You can contact us by sending an email to
No material is required for purchase. We will provide copies of any material required for this course.
On Mondays from 2:00 to 3:50 PM, we will prepare you for that week's tutorial and lab. The meeting locations are as follows:
- PHYS 401: PAT C211
- PHYS 402: PAB B164
- PHYS 403: PAT C231
On Wednesdays, we will discuss aspects of education research and classroom management. All the sections will meet together from 1:30 to 2:20 PM in PAT C211.
The tentative schedule of topics is shown below.
Week Date Monday Wednesday 1 9/26 Introduction 2 10/3 Prep Promoting effective groups 3 10/10 Prep Grading 4 10/17 Prep Student-TA interactions 5 10/24 Prep Think-pair-share 6 10/31 Prep Reflections on observations 7 11/7 Prep Implicit bias 8 11/14 Prep Presentation 9 11/21 No class No class 10 11/28 Prep Presentation 11 12/5 Prep No class
Presentation project (50% of grade)
- Toward the end of the quarter you will present a 5-10 minute physics presentation to your fellow students and instructors which is aimed at students in elementary, middle, or introductory high school (not college or AP physics level).
- You will submit the following parts throughout the quarter:
- Topic selection
- Presentation plan
- Presentation draft
- Final presentation
Interactions with students in PHYS 12X (15% of grade)
- You will interact with students in PHYS 12X throughout the quarter in one tutorial section and one lab section.
- At least once during the quarter you will be observed by an instructor in one of your lab/tutorial sections and will meet afterward to discuss your teaching. The primary goal of this observation is to provide feedback and guidance in your teaching and to give you an opportunity to reflect on the teaching component of your assignment.
- Towards the end of the quarter you will write a reflection paper based on your experiences in tutorial and/or lab sections.
Monday class preparation (5% of grade)
- To prepare for the Monday classes, you will take a pretest each week.
- These are:
- Graded based on a thoughtful attempt, not on correctness.
- Become available Friday at 3:30 PM and are due on Monday at 1:30 PM.
- Once you start a pretest, you will have 15 minutes to complete it without the ability to pause.
Wednesday class preparation (15% of grade)
- To prepare for the Wednesday classes, you will have a weekly reading assignment or other activity.
- After you have completed the assigned activity for the week, you will post a short discussion about the assignment that will be graded based on a thoughtful response.
In class participation (15% of grade)
- You are required to attend the Monday and Wednesday class meetings and to participate in discussions.
- 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 the appropriate instructor 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.
Your grades are assigned based on your weighted score with the following thresholds:
- 90%: 4.0
- 85%: 3.5
- 80%: 3.0
- 75%: 2.5
- 70%: 2.0
Access and accommodation
Your experience in this class is important to us, 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.
If you would like to share any accommodation needs that you may have, please contact us.
We are committed to ensuring a safe environment on campus. We encourage you to check out the resources available here.
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 (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).