Bozeman, MT
Jul 21-Aug 01, 2014
Credit: 3 undergraduate
Tuition & Fees: $915.50
Instructor(s): Greg Francis

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Course Description

Physics 402 is a continuation of the Physics 401 experience. Physics 402 is entirely laboratory based. Instead of absorbing facts from a lecture, the students make observations and build scientific models to account for their observations. The course emphasizes the development of basic concepts and reasoning skills, and efforts are made to actively engage students in the learning process. Staff-to-student ratio is of necessity high (two instructors for approximately 20 students), and interactions with staff are through Socratic dialog: the instructors do not give answers, but help the students to find their own. Available computer technology is utilized as appropriate.

The course will begin with a careful investigation of light, color, and geometrical optics. The study of optics will lead to an understanding of pinhole cameras, lenses, and prisms. We will then explore the differences between the concepts of heat and temperature. This will include a study of heat capacity, specific heat, phase change, and heat transfer. The in-service teachers will also use shadow plots to develop a model for the relative motion of the earth and sun during the course of the term.

The curriculum used will be the Physics by Inquiry modules developed by the Physics Education Group at University of Washington. This curriculum is based on two decades of research on student misconceptions. Each activity is designed to elicit those misconceptions known to block learning, and to allow the student to confront and resolve the difficulties. Students are often presented with several opportunities to confront the same misconception in increasingly rich contexts to insure that they are completely free of the misconception. This teaching approach has a three-fold advantage when used with future teachers:
  • They come away from the class with a clear understanding of the physics based on their own experience.
  • They acquire an awareness of those difficulties with which their future students are likely to be struggling
  • Most importantly, they acquire a self-confidence in their ability to do science, to face unknown situations and find their own answers.
Their teaching will be free of references to higher authority. They will be able to say “I know that the acceleration is constant on a sloped incline because I measured it.” They will be able to predict the time of the high tide (a skill more useful in other states) by looking at the phase of the moon and using their model. And it will be their model because they will build it for themselves, from the ground up.

Meeting Place and Times

Weeks 1 & 2:
Class: MTWRF 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Location: AJM Johnson Hall, Room 121


Greg Francis, PhD. Department of Physics, Montana State University


Physics 401; graduate standing.

Target Audience

Restricted Entry for Science Educators

Tuition and Fees

 Program Fee $238.70
 Computer Fee$10.50
 Distributed Learning Fee$0.00

A $30 registration fee is also charged once per semester.

The costs above assume that you are taking only MSU Extended University courses during the semester that the course is offered. If you also registered for courses through the MSU Registrar, the regular MSU fee structure may apply.

A $40 late fee will be assessed if payment is not posted to your account by 3 pm (Mountain Time) of the course start date (or the business day before if the course starts on a weekend or a holiday).

To learn more about tuition and fees, please see the University Business Services' Student Accounts Web page.

Required Books/Materials

  • Physics By Inquiry Volume 1 & 2, by McDermott and Shaffer. Willey Publishing. ISBN # 9780471548706.

Textbooks are available from Montana State University Bookstore at 1-888-247-2546. Ask to speak with the Textbook Department. It will expedite your order if you tell the sales representative:

  • the course number (PHYS 402)
  • the title of the text
  • that the course is offered through Extended University.

For More Information

contact Diana Paterson at or 406-994-5679.

How to Register

Register Online