Center for Educational Computing Initiatives

The TEAL Project - Studio Physics at MIT

Introductory Physics is a fundamental underpinning of a technical education, but the material is difficult for students to master. It is a subject in which mathematical complexity can quickly overwhelm physical intuition.

Faraday's Law
Creating A Dipole
(3.3 Meg QuickTime)

We are developing a prototype for a reform of physics education at MIT which is designed to help students develop much better intuition about, and conceptual models of, physical phenomena. This reform is centered on an "active learning" approach -- that is, a highly collaborative, hands-on environment, with extensive use of desktop experiments and educational technology.

The basic plan is to merge lecture, recitations, and hands-on laboratory experience into a technologically and collaboratively rich experience for incoming freshmen. Students will gather in groups of nine, with twelve or so such groups in a common area, for five hours per week. The students will be exposed to a mixture of instruction, laboratory work with desktop experiments, and collaborative work in smaller groups of three, in a computer rich environment (one networked laptop per three students, with data acquisition links between laptop and experiments).

Faraday'sLaw (3.3 Meg QuickTime)
Faraday's Law
(3.0 Meg QuickTime)

The desktop experiments and computer-aided analysis of experimental data will give the students direct experience with the basic phenomena. Formal and informal instruction, aided by media-rich interactive software for simulation and visualization, will then aid students in their conceptualization of this experience.

Video clips

Screen shot


The educational component of the project is funded by the d'Arbeloff Initiative and the MIT School of Science. The software development for this effort is funded by the MIT/Microsoft I-Campus Alliance. The project is sponsored by the Department of Physics and administered through CECI.

Project Faculty and Staff

  • Phillip Bailey, MIT CECI
  • Robert Beichner, NCSU Physics
  • John Belcher, MIT Physics
  • Mark Bessette, Physics/CECI
  • Lori Breslow, MIT TLL
  • Peter Dourmashkin, MIT Physics
  • Yehudit J. Dori, Technion
  • Tom Greytak, MIT Physics
  • Alan Lazarus, MIT Physics
  • Steve Lerman, MIT CECI
  • Andrew McKinney, MIT CECI
  • Janet Murray, CECI/Georgia Tech
  • Stanislaw Olbert, MIT Physics
  • Markus Zahn, MIT EECS

See the article about TEAL in MIT's Tech Talk December 12, 2001 entitled "New classrooms offer high-tech education in physics and mechanical engineering" (