PHYS 2211 Spring 2022 Syllabus

Principles of Physics I — PHYS 2211

Course Syllabus for Spring 2022

University of North Georgia’s College of Science & Mathematics

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Course Instructor

Dr. Sarah Formica

Office: Rogers Hall 116A

Virtual office: Zoom link


Hours: Wed. 1:00-3:00, Thur. 1:00-3:00

Hours: Tue. 12:30-1:30, Fri. 12:30-1:30

Course Catalog Description

An introductory course which will include material from mechanics, thermodynamics, and waves. Elementary differential calculus will be used. Three lecture recitations per week. Credit will not be given to students who have credit for PHYS 2211H. Prerequisite: MATH 1450 with a grade of C or higher, or permission of instructor. Corequisite: PHYS 2211L. (3 credit hours)

Learning Goals

PHYS 2211, Principles of Physics, is the first semester of a two semester introductory calculus-based sequence. My goal is for you to learn to approach, solve, and understand a wide variety of physics problems on both qualitative and quantitative levels, and to relate “classroom physics” to the real world we live in. We will emphasize conceptual understanding along with problem solving skills. We will begin with a study of linear motion and mechanics (forces, masses and acceleration) associated with the world-changing ideas and discoveries of Galileo and Newton. We will learn that conservation laws (e.g. energy and momentum) provide a wonderful and powerful alternative for understanding physics and solving problems. We will continue with applications and extensions of these fundamentals, including e.g. rotational motion, vibrations, and waves.

Respect for Diversity

I recognize that there is a vast untapped intellectual resource in all groups underrepresented in physics. For this reason, I am committed to making physics more accessible to everyone. It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, ability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.

Required Texts and Materials

The textbook for this course is University Physics from OpenStax and is available online. If you prefer paperback you may purchase a copy with ISBN-13: 978-1-50669-817-5 (volume 1) and ISBN-13: 978-1-50669-816-8 (Volume 2).

All course materials will be accessed through UNG’s eLearning system, also known as D2L (Desire 2 Learn).

This course is taught in a hybrid modality with a mixture of learning occurring face-to-face and online using D2L. If you have any technical difficulties or want to take a tutorial on using some of the technology, please go to UNG’s source of remote learning resources.

Instructional Modality

Hybrid: Technology will be used to deliver 50% of class sessions

Weekly Schedule

Learning ModeMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
OnlineBegin working through the first half of the module on D2LIndividual conferences on ZoomContinue working through the module on D2LIndividual conferences on Zoom
ClassroomSmall group problem solving and Q&A sessionSmall group problem solving and Q&A sessionSmall group activities and tutorial session
Office hoursVirtual office hours on ZoomTake a written quiz between 1:00-3:00 PM.Take a written quiz between 1:00-3:00 PM.Virtual office hours on Zoom

Content Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course students will be able to demonstrate a conceptual and quantitative knowledge of

  1. units, significant figures, and measurement
  2. vectors
  3. one-dimensional, straight-line kinematics
  4. two- and three-dimensional kinematics including circular and projectile motion
  5. Newton’s laws of motion
  6. Newton’s laws of motion applied to systems in equilibrium and dynamic systems
  7. work, energy, and power
  8. potential energy and energy conservation
  9. impulse, momentum, and momentum conservation
  10. rotational kinematics, torque, moment of inertia, and rotational dynamics
  11. angular momentum and systems in equilibrium
  12. gravitation
  13. periodic motion including the simple harmonic motion of a mass-spring system and a pendulum
  14. mechanical waves, wave functions, and wave dynamics
  15. sound waves, interference, and the Doppler effect

Skills Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course students will be able to

  1. demonstrate the ability to translate a physical description to a mathematical equation.
  2. demonstrate the ability to present clear, logical and succinct arguments.
  3. demonstrate the ability to organize and carry out long, complex physics problems.


The grading system used in this course is probably vastly different from that of any other course you have taken. The grading system is actually not grading at all; it is even called ungrading or going gradeless by educators who implement it.

Research has informed us that descriptive feedback, rather than letter grades or scores, leads to higher learning gains and that using grades in an attempt to improve performance is not effective. There is evidence that grades encourage competition over cooperation, suppress creativity, foster a fear of failure, and reduce interest in learning. If you are curious, this review article discusses research related to grades: Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently).

Much of this is confirmed by other researchers like Carol Dweck, whose book Mindset introduced the world to the concept of growth mindset, and Daniel Pink, whose book Drive argued that extrinsic rewards and punishments actually stifle creativity, higher-order thinking, and intrinsic motivation.

It is my hope to engender the dispositions of growth mindset and intrinsic motivation in my students,

so I want to eliminate any practices that work against students developing them.

In this class, after you turn in work for an assignment, you will receive written and/or verbal feedback about what you did well and what you can do to improve. You will also reflect on your work and your learning goals each week. Throughout the semester, you will have opportunities to assess your own work, to make improvements in response to feedback, and to elicit and receive new feedback — all of which has been shown to aid students in becoming more engaged and effective learners.

Quarterly Conferences

I understand that you will not automatically know how to evaluate yourself and your work, so I will help you learn methods of self-evaluation along the way. I hope to help you learn to move from talking about your performance (i.e. what an A looks like) to talking about your learning: what did you figure out? What obstacles did you overcome? What remains challenging that you want to keep working on? What can you now do that you couldn’t do before?

These questions are only some of what you can ask yourself when reflecting on and evaluating your learning. I hope that by the end of the semester, you will have your own language for describing and judging your own learning. This makes self-evaluation much more effective and even enjoyable, as you learn to articulate your thoughts about your own learning.

We will meet at least once every month in individual conferences on Zoom to discuss your progress and learning. You are welcome to meet with me more often than once per month. You will be given the opportunity to sign up for an individual conference with me whenever you want to meet with me.

You will be required to meet with me at least once per month.

During these conferences, you will decide what we discuss. Sometimes, these conversations might be general and broad — like how you are doing overall in the course. Other times, we might talk about very specific aspects of what you are learning — like two-dimensional motion or energy conservation. There will be times when you will want to demonstrate your competency in an area, like demonstrating your knowledge of impulse and momentum, for example. To do this, you can explain to me how you solve a problem from the self-assessment practice problems in the module. You can also demonstrate your learning by describing what you learned when you engaged in the class activities and tutorials.

1st Conference Deadline2nd Conference Deadline3rd Conference Deadline4th Conference Deadline
January 28, 2022February 25, 2022April 1, 2022April 29, 2022

Evidence Portfolio

To help you keep track of your progress and learning in this course, you will use an evidence portfolio. Your evidence portfolio will have a folder for each module and content learning outcome, 15 in total. In each folder of your evidence portfolio, you will provide evidence of your learning. You can discuss what you did that week and how it connects to your goals. If you demonstrate competency to me during class or conference, you will record it in the portfolio entry.

At the end of the semester, you will have an organized body of work that you will use to determine your final grade for the course.

Final Course Grade

Your final grade in this course will be determined based on the skills you learn, the learning goals you achieve, and the competencies that you demonstrate. Throughout the semester, you will develop a body of work that will help you to self-assess your learning and make an honest appraisal of your effort and progress in the course.

You will be afforded the agency to evaluate and examine your own learning and suggest your grade in the course.

At the end of the semester during final exams week, you will make a presentation to me where you will suggest your final grade, providing evidence from your body of work throughout the semester for why you believe your suggested grade is fair. You have the choice of how to prepare and present this final grade presentation.

Final Presentation Options

(Choose one)

We can meet via Zoom for a final exit interview during which you will present an organized presentation with evidence to support your proposed final grade. I will provide feedback on your assessment and discuss your grade suggestion with you. Together, we will work toward an agreed upon grade, though I reserve the right to veto a suggested grade. This presentation must be no longer than 20 minutes.

You can prepare and record a 20-minute video presentation with evidence to support your proposed final grade and submit this video presentation to D2L. I reserve the right to veto a suggested grade.

You can propose your final grade in a paper that provides evidence from your body of work throughout the semester for why you believe your suggested grade is fair. This paper has a page limit of 3 pages, single spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins. This paper will be submitted to D2L. I reserve the right to veto a suggested grade.

Evidence of Learning

To propose a final grade of A for this course, you will need to provide strong evidence of your learning for all 15 Content Learning Outcomes listed above. This evidence can take many forms but the list below gives some examples of what you might choose to provide as evidence of your learning:

  • Demonstrate mastery of a learning outcome with a thorough and correct solution to a module quiz problem. You have the option to take a quiz in a written format or as an oral quiz.

It is required that you demonstrate mastery of at least 10 learning outcomes with thorough and correct (written and/or oral) quiz solutions.

  • Demonstrate mastery of a learning outcome with thorough and correct solutions to practice problems and in-class activities. This evidence can be strengthened with a reflection/narrative that describes what you learned from the activity and any obstacles you overcame during the learning process.
  • Demonstrate mastery of a learning outcome by connecting concepts you learn in class with activities you perform in the co-requisite lab. This evidence will be a reflection/narrative that describes the concept, what you learned from the activity and any obstacles you overcame during the learning process.


This (un)grading system provides you some freedom to learn at your own pace. However, we are required to complete this course in 15 weeks. To help you stay on track and keep up with the material, I have set up some requirements:.

Meet with me on Zoom in an individual conference at least once per month.

Show up on time to any individual conference you have scheduled.

Have evidence in your evidence portfolio for at least 75% of the modules covered at the time of your quarterly conference.

If, at any time you do not meet these requirements, this will be recorded as counter-evidence. At the end of the semester, if you have counter-evidence remaining on your record, you will not be able to propose a final grade of A.

Counter-evidence will be erased from your record if you meet the requirements in a later individual conference.

Activities and Assignments

This hybrid course is divided up into 15 modules, corresponding with the 15 Content Learning Outcomes. Each module will contain the following activities and assignments:

  • A reading assignment
  • Short lecture videos
  • Multiple-choice practice problems embedded throughout the lesson
  • Discussion questions to prepare for in-class group discussions
  • A class activity/tutorial
  • A self-assessment Practice Quiz with 10 practice problems
  • A folder of your evidence portfolio

Lesson-Embedded Practice Problems

As you work through a module’s lesson, you will come to multiple-choice questions related to the lesson’s content. These questions serve as a form of self-assessment, so you can determine if what you are learning is making sense. You are required to answer these questions to the best of your ability. All responses are anonymous, and you will be able to see the class’s distribution of responses in real time. However, you will not be given the right answer. Through discussion with your classmates during our in-person class meetings, you will be able to determine the correct answer to the question.

Discussion Questions

As you work through a module, you will be prompted to participate in discussions with your classmates. You should work through these discussion problems on your own and then bring your work to class for a discussion.

You will also have a Learning Assistant (LA) in class who will help facilitate these discussions.

Self-Assessment Practice Problems

Toward the end of a module, you will come to a list of 10 Self-assessment Practice Problems which can be used to measure your learning outcomes. These problems will not be graded, but you will be able to check your final answer. It is recommended that you work through each of these problems on paper, completely and using the I.S.E.E. method (described in detail below).

When you are ready to demonstrate your learning of the module’s content, you can take a quiz which will consist of one of these practice problems. You will have the choice to take this quiz in either a written or oral format.


Written quizzes will be administered in my office (Rogers Hall 116A) on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 1:00 PM — 3:00 PM. You will have 30 minutes to complete the written quiz. You will not be allowed to use notes or reference materials, but you will be allowed to use a calculator for written quizzes.

Oral quizzes will be administered via Zoom on Tuesdays between 1:30 PM — 4:30 PM and Fridays between 9:00 AM — 12:30 PM and 1:30 PM — 3:30 PM. You will have 10 minutes to complete the oral quiz. You are allowed to use your own notes and reference materials during this oral quiz. I will listen to your solution and may ask follow-up questions about your solution.

When you take a quiz, one of the Self-Assessment Practice Problems will be randomly chosen for you to solve. It is expected that you will have already worked through and solved all the practice problems so you will be adequately prepared for this quiz.

You are limited to taking only two quizzes per week. This is to ensure that you stay on track and don’t get behind.

Quiz Retakes

With this (un)grading system, learners are allowed the time and flexibility to focus on mastering a learning outcome rather than achieving a certain number or letter grade. In this system, you — the learners — are given the flexibility to choose how you demonstrate mastery and you have the chance to attempt mastery as many times as necessary. With more choice in your learning, you can take the reins and drive your learning journey through student agency.

With this in mind, you are given the opportunity to retake a quiz if you did not master it on your first try. The quiz retake will be one problem from the self-assessment practice problems but it won’t necessarily be the same problem you had the first time. Quiz retakes will be administered in the same format you used the first time taking the quiz, either written or orally.

If you retake a quiz but do not master it, you can retake it again.

Thinking and Communicating Like a Scientist

If you are taking this course, you are likely a STEM major or you have a considerable interest in science. As a scientist, be it a medical doctor, engineer, or researcher, you will have an obligation to do science ethically, follow the scientific method, and communicate effectively to science and non-science audiences alike. In this course, we will focus on learning to think and communicate like a scientist.

You have used the scientific method in your lab courses and your research, but you can also use a similar scientific thinking model in your STEM courses as well. Take a look at Figure 1, from in which he illustrates a way to think scientifically.

Figure 1, from

In this course, and hopefully in your other courses, too, you will approach problems and activities with a scientific thinking model like this. You will: 1.) Make observations, 2.) Form a hypothesis, 3.) Test that hypothesis, and 4.) Evaluate and analyze the results. To help you learn to think like a scientist, you will use a problem-solving method called the I.S.E.E. method.

The I.S.E.E. Method

Often students believe the important thing when solving a problem is to get the right answer, no matter how you get there. While this can be useful for some students in the short term, it only encourages sloppy thinking, and can sometimes lead to the issue that you get to the right end point without really understanding how you got there, or what the implications of getting there are.

A well-written physics solution is akin to a well-written short essay in a humanities class. It has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Following the I.S.E.E. method will help hone your “thinking-like-a-scientist” skills and will better prepare you for dealing with an unfamiliar problem in, say, an exam situation. Furthermore, your solutions will form a useful archive for you to return to when reviewing — you will be much better able to decipher what you were thinking when you wrote it. (You’ll also remember better what you did the first time.)

The I.S.E.E. method consists of four parts: Identify, Set Up, Execute, and Explain/Evaluate.

The I.S.E.E. method must be used for all problem solutions, quizzes, and exams. Figure 2 shows the weighting of each part of an I.S.E.E. method solution. Notice how the correct answer is only worth 1/10 of the total score. Every part of the I.S.E.E. solution is important, necessary, and critical for communicating scientifically.

Figure 2: Weighting of the I.S.E.E. method. This problem-solving method must be used for all quiz and exam solutions.


What information is given and what will you need to find?

  • Explicitly state what the problem is asking including clarifying the problem statement.
  • Identify the target variables of the problem — that is, the quantities whose values you’re trying to find.
  • Identify the known quantities, as stated or implied in the problem.
  • Identify applicable concepts/laws and assumptions/simplifications. Think what physics concepts/laws are involved and what assumptions you can make about the physical situation in order to apply those concepts/laws.

Set Up

Represent the problem physically and mathematically

  • Represent physically. Translate the text of the problem into an appropriate type of physical representation (This may be a picture, a free-body diagram, an energy bar chart, a ray diagram …).
  • Represent the concepts/laws mathematically. Use the physical representation to construct a mathematical representation. You should have a symbolical mathematical statement that clearly shows what concept/law you are starting with to solve the problem. For example, a 1-d kinematics equation could start with xf = x0 + v0t + 1/2at2.
  • As best you can, estimate what your results will be and predict what the physical behavior of a system will be.


Work through the mathematics

  • Use the mathematical relationships you identified earlier to clearly solve for the unknown quantity (quantities). Make sure you include enough steps that someone can follow your work and that you use consistent units.
  • Keep symbols in your solution as long as possible and only put numbers in at the final step. Make sure you include appropriate units in your final answer.


Was your answer as expected, does it make physical sense?

  • Is the final value you found reasonable? Are the units appropriate? Compare your answer with your estimate(s), and reconsider things if there’s a discrepancy.
  • If your answer includes an algebraic expression, assure yourself that it correctly represents what would happen if the variables in it had very large or very small values. Does the result make sense in limiting cases?
  • Does the result make physical sense? Include a written explanation for why your result makes sense and what it tells you about what happens in the physical situation.

UNG’s Supplemental Syllabus