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Re: [Phys-l] trimester course set-up

As the original poster of this question, I can at least help explain
what is happening at our school. Our state has recently changed the
number of core classes a student has to take. The increase in core
classes (especially in math and science) leave only a couple of semester
slots open for electives and/or remediation. If we were to remain on
semesters, most elective teachers would be out of a job and there would
be little leeway for struggling students. A trimester schedule leaves
more elective slots (I don't know the number).

On trimesters, we are thinking (at least in science) of making our
science courses go from 2 semesters to 2 trimesters. this would occur
for Earth Science, Bio, Chem, and Physics- our state requires Earth,
Bio, and either chem or physics. Our students would be required to take
8 trimesters of science. This would leave 2 electives for them. We
currently offer an environmental science, Genetics 1 & 2, zoology,
physiology, botany, and AP chem classes. We are thinking of adding an
integrated science class as well and offers a third trimester of the
different sciences as additional course of study.

Becasue students currently take their respective sciences based on grade
level this will most likely change as students may want to take courses
earlier. We will need to try an make the courses stand alone so that
students can start them anytime. Teachers will then be teaching a
combination of maybe physics A, physics B, and Chem 1 or something like

By going down to 2 trimesters instead of 2 semesters, we still are
responsible for the same benchmarks which gets back to coverage vs depth
of material. We CAN teach it all in 2 trimesters, but does it leave for
as much inquiry and true understanding? We'll see.

Originally, I was just curious as to how other teachers had broken up
main concepts into trimesters as not all main topics necessitate the
same length of coverage. I have enjoyed the comments and discussion
both on list and off list though as there is defintely no easy answer.

Mike Van Antwerp
Biology W202 08/31/06 11:27 AM >>>
Larry Smith mentioned that the original question centered on the high
school change from semesters to trimesters.

I agree. But I was trying to explain that such a change does not
necessitate a change in year-long courses. Yet it appears there is some
evidence some schools are indeed trying to force a change, for example
it appears that in some instances what was a full-year course is going
to become a 2-trimester course.

Could someone explain to the list what is happening here, and why some
schools are moving in this direction? More specifically...

(1) Does the proposed HS trimester plan primarily divide the normal
nine-month school year into three sessions rather than two?

(2) Is it generally assumed that full year courses under the semester
plan are going to be switched to two trimesters under the new plan? If
so, what's the motivation behind this? Is there at least the option
that current full-year (9-month) courses can continue as 9-month
courses, or does the administration's plans preclude this?

(3) If full-year courses are indeed switched from 9 months to 6 months,
are periods lengthened so the same number of instruction hours result,
or are the courses truly being shortened. Again, what's the motivation
for such a change?

Michael D. Edmiston, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry and Physics
Bluffton University
Bluffton, OH 45817
Forum for Physics Educators