Centre for Excellence in Innovative
Physics endeavours to understand the underlying laws governing our universe. It expands the frontiers of knowledge about space, technology, medicine and provides a grounding for all of the sciences.
The IPT CETL will provide a national and international nexus for the creation, implementation, evaluation, scholarly documentation and dissemination of important new ideas in the teaching and learning of physics and astronomy.
The Centre will focus on curriculum innovation, the development of personal and professional skills, widening access, the use of modern technology to promote effective teaching and learning and the positioning of physics in the broader scientific context. The focus on innovative learning will include a rich programme of e-learning, a strong element of problem-based learning and a substantial improvement in problem solving and employability skills.
Innovative teaching in the Department of Physics and Astronomy is based on more than 20 years of developments addressing the problems of student engagement, access, retention and the cultivation of core skills. These innovations in teaching and excellence in research have been recognised by many awards including the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 1994 for "World-class teaching, research and consultancy programme in astronomy and space and planetary science fields. Practical results from advanced thinking", and an 'Excellent' rating for teaching by the independent auditors of the Quality Assurance Agency.
The Leicester department, along with the other departments involved in the CETL - at the Open University and Reading University - will show by example how the sharing of resources and expertise can allow physics departments to improve the teaching and learning of their own students and create an inspiring learning environment.
Enriching the Learning Experience
In Leicester the learning environment will be based around problem-based learning (PBL) and will integrate theory, computing and practical work with class and tutorial activities in a learning community.
A restructured state -of-the-art laboratory will be designed as a dedicated PBL facility and will provide a unique space for teaching and group and individual study.
In addition there will be a highly innovative 'Sectored PBL Laboratory' in which students from different years will share facilities in laboratory sectors devoted to particular topics such as quantum optics and low temperature physics. This will also address a well-known weakness in the student experience of traditional practical work by using elements of e-learning to provide pre- and post-laboratory contexts for experiments.
For students in the partner institutions, and elsewhere, the use of video materials recorded at Leicester and the sharing of the laboratory e-learning elements will allow the PBL experience to be exported to other courses.
Promoting interest in physics by placing it in proper context among other sciences and in a more general culture will be a key component of the CETL in collaboration with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science.
As the degree of experience and expertise in evaluated physics education increases and physics e-learning develops a future mission of this CETL will be to generate a high level of interchange between all partners and others who wish to join in these efforts.
This will lead to an even higher level of interchange with a CETL-centred network of research-based teaching expertise and online physics teaching resources - enabling school leavers and lifelong learners to find elements of physics teaching designed to capture their interest and develop their skills wherever they are. This may provide a model for other university-level science education initiatives beyond the domain of physics and astronomy.