Physics Education Research and Development Group 
Introduction:
In the Spring of 1995, our group conducted a survey of the engineering faculty at the University of Minnesota. The purpose of the survey was to learn about our engineering faculty's reasons for requiring physics for their students, goals for our course, topics we might want to teach, and how best to teach them. What follows on this page is a summary of slides as presented at the Summer AAPT meeting in Spokane. If you have any comments, please let us know.
PDF versions:
Download a PDF version (get Acrobat Reader) of the article submitted to JPERDownload a PDF version (get Acrobat Reader) of the survey
Rationale for survey
 Currently improving the introductory calculusbased
physics course
 Constraints: 16002000 students per quarter
 8 different sections taught by 8 different instructors
 Only 5% of these students want to be physics majors
Engineering and Science Department Sizes
Department  % of Graduates 

Mechanical Eng.  31% 
Electrical Eng.  18% 
Civil Eng.  14% 
Chemical Eng.  11% 
Computer Sci.  11% 
Mathematics  4% 
Chemistry  4% 
Material Sci.  1% 
Agricultural Eng.  1% 
Geology  1% 
Astrophysics  1% 
Survey Information
 Faculty respondents chosen by the directors of
undergraduate studies within each department.
 Response rate was 67.6%
 Responses analyzed with two models:
 House of Representative: Responses scaled
according to dept. size
 Senate: Each dept.'s responses were weight
equally
 House of Representative: Responses scaled
according to dept. size
 If the two models agree then we know that there is
consistency between depts.
Questions:
The following tables give the results of the survey. First the
question as asked is stated, followed by a table of the results.
Both the House of Representative [HoR] and the Senate [Sen]
models are represented in the results.
Goals
"Many different goals could be addresses through this
course. Would you please rate each of the following goals in
relation to its importance for your students on a scale of 1 to 5
 1=unimportant ... 5=very important
* Also, please star the two goals that are most important for
your students"
HoR  Sen.  Star  Goal 

4.5  4.7  Solve problems using general qualitative logical
reasoning within the context of physics 

4.5  4.7  *  Know the basic principles behind all physics (e.g.
forces, conservation of energy, ...) 
4.4  4.6  Solve problems using general quantitative problem
solving skills within the context of physics 

4.2  4.5  Apply the physics topics covered to new situations
not explicitly taught by the course. 

4.2  4.1  Use with confidence the physics topics covered. 

3.9  4.3  *  Know the range of applicability of the principles of
physics (e.g. conservation of energy applied to fluid
flow, heat transfer, plasmas, ...) 
Topics by Chapters
The responding faculty were asked to select the number of
weeks that should be spent on each topic. The total number of
weeks should total 24. They were also asked to star (*) the four
most important chapters for their students
The most important topics by the percent of stars received:
HoR  Sen.  Topic 

80  85  Forces and Newton's laws 
64  63  Potential energy and Cons. of Energy 
32  13  Statics 
32  26  Application of Newton's laws 
28  26  Units, dimensions, vectors 
24  15  Kinetic energy and Work 
24  22  Simple harmonic motion 
16  6  DC circuits 
12  22  Waves 
12  16  Superposition and Interference of waves 
[The reader should notice the remarkable consistency in the results between models, except in the cases of DC circuits and Waves.]
The topics that did not recieve any 'stars' from the respondants:
linear motion; momentum and collisions; angular momentum;
molecules and gases; electric potential; capacitors and
dielectrics; currents in materials; Faraday's law, magnetism and
matter; magnetic inductance; AC circuits
Laboratory Structure:
"The laboratory associated with this course is typically taught by graduate teaching assistants and could be structured in several ways.
HoR  Sen.  Laboratory Structure 

36  32  A lab with well defined directions which verifies a
physical principle previously explained to the students
using the given apparatus. 
27  38  A lab where the students are given a specific
question or problem for which they must conduct an
experiment with minimal guidance using the given
apparatus. [What we are trying at University of
Minnesota] 
10  13  A lab where the students are given a general concept
from which they must formulate an experimental question,
then design and conduct an experiment from a choice of
apparatus. 
27  16  Other. Please describe." [These did not change
the above percentages] 
Recitation Structure
"The recitation sections associated with this course are
typically taught by graduate teaching assistants and could be
structured in several ways.
HoR  Sen.  Discussion Sections 

7  6  Students ask the instructor to solve specific
homework problems on the board. 
15  15  Instructor asks students to solve specific homework
problems on the board. 
12  15  Instructor asks students to solve unfamiliar textbook
problems, then discusses solution with class. 
43  51  Students work in small collaborative groups to solve
realworld problems with the guidance of the
instructor.[What we are trying at Univ. of Minn.] 
23  13  Other. Please describe.[These actually add to the
above % for the last choice] 
Summary:
 There is consensus among our engineering departments
about what they want to be taught and how:
 Fundamental principle in depth  not topics
covered lightly [goals]
 Comprehensive problem solving [goals]
 Collaborative learning [recitation structure]
 Not inquiry labs [Lab structure]
 Fundamental principle in depth  not topics
covered lightly [goals]
 Our engineering faculty agree with the recommendation of many physics educators.
PER
Engineering Survey:
 Survey Rationale
 Engineering and Science Departments
 Survey Information
Questions
 Goals
 Topics by Chapters
 Laboratory Structure
 Recitation Structure
 Summary of Results