Teaching Support


Carl Wieman Science Education Iniative: Active Learning, Pre-Class Reading, Clickers, Worksheets, Lecture Demonstration, Think-Pair-Share


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What does this affect? This will affect how faculty members, staff, and students use other people’s copyrighted materials in presentations and in class, what university members can post on websites and the UBC learning management system, the preparation of course packages, and more.

Because UBC is not part of the license agreement anymore, we will be under greater scrutiny from Access Copyright and other copyright holders. It is important that all members of UBC visit the UBC Copyright Website (http://copyright.ubc.ca/) to familiarize themselves with UBC’s copyright policies and fair dealing exceptions. 

Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI)

Our PHAS CWSEI team offers support for teaching and learning. Below you will find a brief overview of some of the key approaches we recommend. For more information, please contact Georg Rieger (rieger@physics.ubc.ca).

Active Learning

Research indicates that students learn more in an active learning environment. Why? It is important that the learner makes sense of the new knowledge and builds it into what he or she already knows (so-called constructive learning theory); this is something the professor cannot do for them. Hence students have to actively engage with the material in an effortful way. In an active learning environment, the instructor provides students with tasks that support this effortful engagement. 

Pre-class Reading

The main purpose of a pre-reading assignment is to prepare students for learning in your next class. Traditionally, students are introduced to a topic for the first time in lecture; however, students can read the textbook before coming to class – making lecture their second exposure. Students will get more out of lectures if they come to class knowing the basic definitions and physics vocabulary, as well as having had the chance to work through simple examples of concepts at their own pace. Learn more - "Pre-Reading Assignments – Why they may be the most important homework for your students" (.pdf)


Clickers are a very useful tool in an interactive class. Students use these devices to answer questions in class and the instructor gets immediate feedback on the students’ learning. It is crucial to use them in connection with a well-choreographed peer instruction approach for best results. Our CWSEI team offers peer instruction with clickers workshops tailored to our PHAS faculty.


In-class worksheets are a good way to actively engage students during lecture. Usually a worksheet contains a few questions and/or tasks related to a concept (or synthesis of concepts). The parts of the worksheet build on one another and provide a ‘scaffold’ for the students to explore the concept in depth.  The instructor connects the parts of the worksheets by providing introductions, motivations, hints, explanations and summaries. 

Lecture Demonstrations  

A popular way to enhance the lecture is to show a lecture demonstration. This can be turned into a good active engagement activity by having the students predict the outcome of an experiment (e.g. by using clickers). The activity requires a careful explanation of the experiment and a good experimental set up that is large enough so that students can see all the essential components.


An interactive approach without clickers is “Think-Pair-Share”. The key element is the peer discussion (“Pair”) that follows the individual pondering of a question (“Think”). In the “Share” part, the instructor asks several student groups (usually 2 – 4 students) to share their solution or their strategy with the class. This approach requires that students are comfortable speaking up in front of their peers and will probably work best in smaller upper year classes.