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25 March 2009

Collaboration rules for AP problems assigned for homework

This time of year especially, I like to assign AP questions as homework. But when I do, the collaboration rules change.

Up until now, I've asked students merely to approach the problem individually, spending at least 5 minutes and showing me some kind of reasonable start. After that, collaboration is freely allowed and encouraged. I award full credit for a correct answer whether or not the individual work was on target.

Early in the year, I'm happy if someone merely copies the question and the diagram on his own; at least he's thought about the problem, and has context for the subsequent discussion with his friends. After a couple of months, I insist on a bit more... I start taking off unless the student does SOMETHING on his own, even if he's wrong.

Now, though, my students know how to learn physics. They no longer should be hesitant to approach a problem. Furthermore, an AP free response question always has several distinct parts -- if part (c) is hard, they should still be able to get full credit for parts (a), (b), and (d). Now is the time to practice this kind of approach to AP questions.

Throughout the school year, I nudge my class gradually toward becoming more independent physics students. Now it's time to take the final step. Many will be surprised how well they do on their own after relying on friends' input for much of the year. Others will expose blatant gaps in their knowledge; but they'll be forced to confront their lack of understanding, giving them incentive to figure out what they don't know.

Instructions for AP problems assigned as homework:

* Do the ENTIRE PROBLEM on your own before seeking assistance. Do NOT discuss the problem at all until you are completely finished. This should take no more than 15 minutes.

* If you make any changes, these must be in a DIFFERENT COLOR of ink or pencil. Cross out (do not erase) your original wrong work.

* You will earn full credit for your final answers, unless you fail to follow these collaboration rules.


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