March 2024: Erik Jensen

Chemeketa Community College, Salem, Oregon

Erik Jensen

  • Member since 2022
  • Physics Instructor
  • Salem, Oregon

About Erik

My journey to becoming a community college physics instructor began with a positive experience as a teaching assistant for Kenneth Krane at Oregon State University. Krane was influenced by the work of Lillian McDermott; we used her Tutorials in Introductory Physics for our recitations. I learned that the still common “sage on the stage” model of instruction was ineffective. And he emphasized the importance of the AAPT, whose publications and meetings (both national and local) I have found incredibly useful. My reading of Mazur’s Peer Instruction and Arons’ Teaching Introductory Physics early in my career also influenced my teaching.

I believe in low-cost higher education for all who are willing. So, for the last 23+ years, I have taught physics at Chemeketa. In 2004, my program chair approached me with the idea of teaching physics online. Providing substantive lab experiences at a reasonable cost seemed to be the primary hurdle, and many people expressed skepticism (“How are you going to replace the function generators and air tracks?”). While developing the lab instructions and lab kits was work, it wasn’t ultimately an issue to provide equivalent lab experiences; the primary issues online were (and still are 20 years later) engagement and retention. I think that everyone who taught during COVID realizes this.

I have recently focused most of my energies outside the classroom on lab learning (both online and in-person). I think that there are important unanswered questions such as what students should learn, how this learning should be measured, and what the best practices are for reaching these goals. Holmes and Weiman showed that traditional labs do not improve mastery of physics lecture content. Partly inspired by their paper, David Sokoloff (“way past president of the AAPT”), Erik Bodegom, and I received an NSF grant to adapt RealTime Physics pedagogy to the iOLab data acquisition device for distance learning. While we improved student mastery of physics lecture content, we didn’t improve their lab-specific skills (nor did we try). I am currently fine-tuning an assessment that measures a variety of lab-specific skills, and I continue to push down online lab kit costs (around $10 term in one case). I also follow developments in deeper and broader ideas such as student motivation, diversity, and group dynamics.

I was recently elected VP of the Oregon section of the AAPT. When I am not working, you might find me running, traveling, pickleballing, coaching basketball, or playing the accordion.