As coursework is an important component of your grades, this article will deal with several tips that you might find helpful in achieving a great grade for your physics coursework.
Firstly, the most important part of physics coursework is finding a good topic. It is as difficult to make a bad topic look impressive as it is to mess up a great topic. But what is the definition of a great topic?
This is where you are presented with a choice to do either a magic trick or a teaching aid by the physical science department. Which would be better, you ask? I would personally go for the teaching aid, because a magic trick lends itself to the fatal flaw of presenters trying to fake excitement and insert clichés such as the dimming of lights, the use of a spotlight, or a deep booming voice. This makes the whole presentation feel less real and genuine than pitching a teaching aid. In addition, students often fall into the traps of spending too much time thinking of a spectacular magic trick, failing to execute a spectacular magic trick, or having a magic trick that is simply too ordinary to get good grades.
However, my write-up will still discuss both magic tricks and teaching aids.
A great teaching aid is one that takes a topic or theory that students struggle to understand, or get marks in and helps them understand this, or practice applying this theory.
Some topics that you might want to consider are electricity or chemical bonding, given that these are relatively new topics that require a lot of practice, as well as a sound understanding of the theories.
Secondly, it is important to create a teaching aid that resonates with the students and benefits them. For this, I would recommend that your teaching aid be a game, where students can play, and while having fun, practice and understand theories. This teaching aid has to appeal to the lowest common denominator of students, meaning that when you think about what games a student will find fun, you can either conduct a survey to find a common interest, or apply logic and do something related to football. Just because you enjoy mandarin doesn’t mean the rest of the cohort will.
A magic trick is an optical illusion and a deception of the senses. As such, some good topics you can take into consideration are light, electricity, sound, and chemical bonding, where you can utilise the phenomena and theories in the topics to create a fantastic trick.
For example, you can put into practice theories on bending light to make objects disappear.
When performing the trick, you must take into account several factors.
Firstly, the “wow” factor. Your trick will not score well if it is not amazing. It will be so much more impressive and you will score so much better if you tear up and re-join a card than pull a rabbit out of a box. A lot of and effort will be needed to come up with a trick that is truly special and different from the rest, which is what makes the magic trick so much harder than the visual aid. In addition, many things can go wrong with a wow factor, so we recommend practicing in front of your friends to truly gauge how exciting your trick is and practicing to make sure the theories work in practice, as well as minimise the chance of a mess-up on the floor.
Secondly, the scientific principles behind the magic trick should be a theory that requires a higher level of understanding and critical thinking or a relatively unknown and obscure theory that requires. This shows that a lot of effort was put in even into parts of the coursework which most students considered a trivial and small portion of the work.
Thirdly, ensure that your explanation of the scientific concepts are concise and your classmates easily understand it. There is no point having a jaw-dropping magic trick that defies logic through a complex scientific theory if no one understands what you did, or how you did it.
When you pitch your teaching aid, or perform your magic trick it is important to be fluent. Memorising your speech is not recommended, rather, it is much less time-consuming and you will be much more fluent if you write out points on cue cards, and practice speaking your speech from it. It is better to look at your cue cards multiple times than to forget a speech that you have memorised.
However, a good presentation can become an excellent presentation with the proper use of visual aids. Even when presenting a magic trick, and especially when explaining the scientific principle behind the trick, sound, video, and images will greatly enhance your presentation.
Slides are perhaps the most important part of Too often do students forget that your slides are not your script. Your slides are meant to complement your speech and help students remember your point, and thus here are several rules to follow when creating slides:
- Set a word limit per slide (For example, 13 words), and stick to it
- Use images instead of words whenever possible
- Use bold words and large fonts to make an object prominent. Underscores are not recommended, and italics should only be used on text that has not been bolded
- Use a visually appealing and appropriate colour scheme (It is recommended that you use 3 main colours at the very maximum)
- It is better to have content stretched over many slides than pack it all into one slide
A few examples of this follow:
Lastly, never be afraid to ask your seniors, classmates and teachers for advice. I assure you that the vast majority of the people who you ask will be more than willing to help you.
Michael Lee is from the class of 3.12 (2015).