50 Learning Goals For Physics Students

What are the “big items” I want my students to take away from my class from each year?  It’s a big question… of course I want them to do a great job on their exams and understand our course content, but I realize that a vast majority of them will forget a majority of physics concepts shortly after leaving the classroom.  What are the enduring understandings and learnings that really matter? Here’s a list of my top 50. What key learnings are missing or overvalued?

  1. Learn to teach yourself.
  2. Think critically.
  3. Appreciate the beauty and patterns in the world.
  4. Be confident in your ability to attack an unfamiliar problem.
  5. Utilize the scientific method.
  6. Learn how to use a spreadsheet.
  7. Act like a professional
  8. Work productively in diverse groups.
  9. The universe is big.
  10. We aren’t.
  11. Trigonometry is useful.
  12. Calculus is just slopes and areas.
  13. Forces come in pairs.
  14. Doing work transfers energy.
  15. Ohms Law V=IR.
  16. Examine skeptically.
  17. Use a word processor.
  18. Learn to recognize what you don’t know (metacognition).
  19. Learn how to teach.
  20. Use and understand the metric system.
  21. Love learning.
  22. Be passionate about something.
  23. Estimate using orders of magnitude.
  24. Work productively, even when your team includes idiots.
  25. Forces cause accelerations.
  26. Mass/energy is always conserved.
  27. Waves transfer energy.
  28. Learn to create and analyze graphs.
  29. Use the Internet as a learning resource.
  30. Write coherently.
  31. Learn to study productively and efficiently.
  32. Velocity and acceleration are not the same thing.
  33. Learn from your mistakes.
  34. Draw and use free body diagrams.
  35. Gravity is an attractional force between masses.
  36. Momentum is conserved in any closed system.
  37. Understand the difference between electrical current and electrical potential.
  38. Transfer theoretical concepts to practical applications.
  39. Read and understand a technical text.
  40. Power is the rate at which you do work.
  41. Charge cannot be created or destroyed.
  42. Isaac Newton revolutionized our understanding of the world.
  43. Objects changing direction are accelerating.
  44. Reflect on your performance, and adjust your future habits accordingly.
  45. Horizontal and vertical motion are independent.
  46. Apply problem-solving methodologies in unfamiliar contexts.
  47. Learn to create and present effectively using Powerpoint.
  48. Take responsibility for your own learning.
  49. In the absence of air resistance, all objects fall at the same rate.
  50. There is nothing you cannot accomplish if you set your heart and mind to it.