Physical Chemistry

Physical chemistry

Quantum Mechanics for Large Objects

We describe quantum mechanics for an electron, but when it’s a tennis ball, what would the equation look like? This gives them the idea that the model works for every kind of particle.

Demonstrations to Keep Attention

Do a demonstration, for example, a little explosion where you get a fluorescent gas coming off. It’s in a way related to the material, but it’s more about keeping them awake and engaged. It’s just a little bit of fun. That helps. They obviously enjoy it. Keep the didactic, formal teaching very, very short, and just mix it up quite a bit.

Short Activities

Only give them two or three minutes to work on a problem. That concentrates them and prevents them just talking about the football or whatever it is that’s on their mind. You need to keep changing the activity, rather than have extended activities. We want them to chat, but human beings won’t sit and chat about quantum mechanics for more than two or three minutes, they’ll get onto what they want for lunch. So it’s finding that balance. Two or three minutes seems to work about right.

Problem Breaks With Discussion

Make the students think about the ideas themselves. Have them talk amongst themselves about it. If there’s too much lecturer in the lecture it just washes over them after five to ten minutes. They need to have a break, think about the problems, do a couple of problems and talk amongst themselves. That seems to keep them engaged, especially with the variety of students in the class. It keeps their attention. Lecture for five or ten minutes and use work sheets, which they pick up as they come in.

Relate to Students' Planned Careers

The nature of the students is that there are some that are interested in this topic in its own right. But many of them want to end up doing organic chemistry and pharmacology, or medicine of some sort. This is a theory which is too much physics for some of them, so you’ve always got to relate it back to their own interests.

Relate to Student Interests

Relate the material to cool emerging areas such as quantum biology.

Problem Breaks

Students’ patience in thinking about this material is quite short sometimes. So don’t lecture the material for very long. Have a break and get them to do a problem. Do this after introducing the topic, once it’s getting a little bit more concrete, that is, when they can actually work through a problem.

Worksheets, Discussion and Responses

Lecture for five or ten minutes and use work sheets, which they pick up as they come in. Let them work on the worksheets, then have a discussion and use a response devise, like their mobile phones, to feed back answers.

Leave Maths Until Later

Introduce the concepts without being too mathematical at the second year level.

Qualitative Introduction

Introduce quantum mechanics in a very qualitative way, so they don’t get worried about it in a big way or worry about the mathematical treatments. Introduce just the big thing that it can tell us, but not be too concerned about the details. The ideas that flow from the qualitative concept are very important, but the mathematical treatment is not so important to them at that stage.


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