course syllabus

        Here it is, the syllabus in all of its glory.  It may be a bit long, but that is because it is full of valuable information.  ;-)

Locations & Times

  • For “lecture”-101 Seaver Hall, 8:10- 9:50 MW
  • For lab- 117, 119 & 121 Seaver Hall, select one of the seven sections
  • For “virtual” meetings- The course has a web page that can be found at (That's here!)

Required Text

College Physics by Vince Coletta (Mosby, 1995) We will cover most of the second half of the book (chapters 17- 29).


  • Who am I?: Jeff Phillips (a.k.a. Dr. Jeff)
  • Where I “live”: 106 Seaver Hall
  • When I tend to be “home”: M 1– 2, W 1- 3, R 3- 4, F 12- 1 (I’m often around my office and more than willing to meet with students at other times.)
  • Other ways to contact me: phone-338-7811 and email-


Student responsibilities include (but not limited to):

  • Coming to class prepared which includes reading the text, trying various example problems, and studying any additional handouts.
  • Attempting all homework problems, this can be done either individually or in study groups with your classmates (simply be careful not to rely on your classmates so much that you cannot solve problems by yourself on tests).
  • Asking questions when material is unclear, this can be done during office hours, in class or via email.
  • Regularly check email for schedule or policy changes.

Dr. Jeff’s responsibilities include (be are certainly not limited to):

  • Being receptive to student feedback and suggestions concerning both course content and design.
  • Providing opportunities for students to assess their own progress.
  • Employing several modalities (verbal, visual, tactile, etc) when introducing topics so as to accommodate different learning styles.
  • Maintaining a respectful and student-centered environment.

(drum roll please)

       Please read this section carefully. (Okay, I hope you read all of the sections carefully, but I know this one is of particular interest to you.) As I mentioned in the opening section, people tend to learn a skill best by practicing it. This is probably common sense to you. After all, one hardly becomes a great quarterback by simply watching Monday Night Football every week. If you want to be a better athlete (or musician or painter or poet or…) you would practice the fundamentals of that activity as well as prepare for “game situations” (or concerts or whatever). You can think of our homework as the practices, the tests as games or concerts, and me as a coach. With that said, here is the distribution of points used to determine your course grade. Notice that the participation and homework portions of your grade are significant. This is meant to serve as external motivation for you as you practice physics.

The weight for various aspects of the course are as follows:

Unit Participation Homework Test Total
Electricity 3% 7% 10% 20%
Current & Magnetism 3% 7% 10% 20%
Optics 3% 7% 10% 20%
Lab  15%
Final  25%
Total   100%

      As you can see our semester is divided into three units. You can refer to the schedule at the end of this document for more information on which sections of the text correspond to which unit. (Okay, that’s not quite true. You’ll actually see on the schedule that there is fourth unit that does not have a test. The homework associated with this unit will be averaged with the ones from the third unit.) The following sections describe the tests, and homework in detail.
      All grades in this class will be based on a fixed scale, which means that you shouldn’t feel any need to “compete” with your classmates. The grading scale we will be using is as follows:

93-100= A
90- 92= A-
87- 89= B+
83- 86= B
80- 82= B-
77- 79= C+
73- 76= C
70- 72= C-
60- 69= D
0- 59= F



      Throughout the semester we will work on many types of assignments. Often homework will be given to you in the form of a worksheet that is related to either what we did in class or what you are to read for the next class. Other times it may be in the form of end of the chapter problems from the text. Also, in class we will often perform mini-experiments or work on problems in groups which will be considered part of your homework grade. There may be an occasional essay to write which will also factor into your homework grade.
      All of the assignments can be thought of as falling into one of three categories

  • Conceptual explorations- These probably don’t require any mathematics, instead they focus on describing phenomena with words and pictures. You may perform a simple experiment (or observe a demonstration) and be asked to formulate and test hypotheses.
  • Exercises- Think of this type of homework as the drills you might run over and over in practice or the scales you play until you can play them without thinking. Before you can move on to playing Mozart you need to know your scales. Similarly, you won’t be solving physics problems without first mastering the fundamentals through exercises.
  • Applications- These may be mathematical or conceptual in nature. The essential idea is that you take the physics that you have learned so far and apply it to new situations. These are more like the scrimmages or recitals of physics.

      Since the course focuses more on your physics understanding rather than whether you’ve gotten the right answer (this is true on tests as well), the grading of most homework assignments will emphasize the process and correct physics. What is most important is that we improve our problem solving and critical thinking skills. Thus, in writing up exercises and application solutions, you should write out complete solutions. We will discuss the level of necessary detail later in class, but the basic criteria will be- can somebody else read your solution and understand each step? This means no ESP should be necessary when trying to understand a solution.
With most of the homework, you’re encouraged to work collaboratively- studying together is a good way to learn physics. But don’t just copy work from a friend! You will help yourself in the short run (good score on the homework assignment,… maybe) but punish yourself in the long run (you’re not learning anything, and it’ll show on tests).
        One last note on homework- Dr. Jeff reserves the right to administer quizzes if necessary. Quizzes would be administered at the beginning or end of the class period and would be used to provide further external motivation. These short quizzes would then count as a homework assignment


       There are in-class tests following the completion of each unit (see the class schedule on the last page for dates). In addition, there will be a comprehensive final exam given on Wednesday, May 3rd at 8am, which will be worth 25% of your grade.
       Tests will consist of conceptual questions of the multiple choice, short answer, and fill-in-the-blank variety as well as numerical exercises. For each test, you will be allowed to bring in one 3”x5” note card. You can write down anything you want on this card- equations, notes, examples, prayer to St. Albert (patron saint of scientists), whatever. Keep in mind that physics is a description of physical phenomena. Sometimes we use the language of mathematics to articulate these ideas, but the math itself is not physics. Exams will be written to test your understanding of physics not mathematics.
       You should understand that while each test is associated with a particular unit that does not mean that the physics that we learned before that unit can be forgotten. Each unit relies on the previous ones. A test will certainly emphasize the material of that particular unit, but concepts and problem solving techniques from the previous unit may also appear on the test. In fact, one can go even further to say that it is important to also remember what was learned in physics 253. There are many concepts that return in 254. (Forces and energies are two main ones.)
       Note that there are no make-up tests unless you can provide documentation of some dire circumstance that prevented you from being present at the test.


Details about labs can be found in the guideline section of the Physics 256 Lab Manual


       As with all courses at LMU, each student is expected to contribute to the course. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to present a 30 minute lecture on quantum electrodynamics; rather, simply asking questions or sharing your ideas is all it takes. As was mentioned several times before, people learn best when they do something or they try to explain it to others. So, by participating in discussions you will not only help yourself, but also your classmates- definitely a win-win situation.
      We’ll try and be as flexible as possible, not going too fast, but this course will require each of us to work outside of class, to come to class prepared, and to participate. It is important that everybody asks questions when they’re unsure about something. Ask in class, after class, in office hours, over email ,etc. With sufficient feedback (both students giving to the instructor as well as the instructor giving to the students) we should be able to keep the course at a reasonable, yet challenging level.Assorted administrative policies
       Cheating, plagiarism, submission of the work of others, etc. violates LMU policy on academic honesty & integrity and may result in penalties ranging from a lowered grade to course failure or expulsion. Often students will be allowed to work together in groups on homework assignments, but this does not mean you are able to turn in somebody else’s work. Any group work (in or out of class) is meant to be a collaborative effort that improves the students’ understanding of physics as well as team working skills. When in doubt as to whether or not group work is permitted, or what exactly constitutes collaborative teamwork versus plagiarism, ask Dr. Jeff. A further discussion of the campus policies and student obligations are given in the Undergraduate Bulletin.
       Homework will be accepted up to 24 hours after the due date (unless otherwise stated assignments are due at the beginning of class). However, there is a late penalty of a 50% reduction in the score. So, if you turn in an assignment the next morning and receive 8 points out of a possible 10, then your actual grade becomes 4 points out of 10. Assignments will NOT be accepted after the 24-hour grace period.