How to Get an "A" in Physics 121

#06: Make Smart Use of Collaborative Learning

One of the paradoxes of academic life is that even though you are assessed based on your individual performance, in fact some of the most important learning you will do is done collaboratively, with your peers and with others on campus. A few points:

  • Take advantage of SI Leaders: I strongly encourage students to take advantage of the course SI leaders by attending SI sessions. . The strongest undergraduate upper-class students compete to be SI leaders for the physics introductory classes. These people work for you, not for the physics department, they are entirely on your side and there is nothing whatsoever holding them back from doing everything they possibly can to help you learn the materials.

  • Get into a peer study group: If one student is smart, several are much smarter. Given the variety of background and learning styles, your peers are at least as likely to be able to provide you with insight into important concepts and effective methods for problems solving. But be careful and remember at the end of the day the goal is not having the answer, it's understand and being able to do the problem on your own. Don't fool yourself into thinking that just because your friend has explained it clearly that now you can do the problem yourself. Check. Yes, work it out with your friends and classmates, but be sure you can do it yourself before you write it down on the paper. And whatever you do, don't copy someone's homework.

  • By-the-way an important aside on plagiarism: This is especially an issue for Lab Reports because the same labs have been done over the years. Every year several students get hauled in front of the Academic Integrity Board because the decided to cut corners and write up their lab report with someone else's old report in front of them. It's sad and it's completely avoidable. CWRU uses a sophisticated computer-archive plagiarism detection system that compares your lab report against every lab report that has been submitted for about the past 10 years. It catches exactly this kind of academic mis-behavior. Even if you try to "re-word" as you go, the software will find the correspondence between your lab report and the one you "cribbed off". So don't be tempted. You will get caught. It's so not worth it. Do you lab reports on your own. Make sure that no one else's lab report is anywhere within eyesight when you do your report.