«Physics in Higher Education»
JOURNAL of the
SOCIETY Series «B»
V. 2, N 2, 1996

In this article, we propose a new educational method intended to develop creative engineering abilities in younger university students [1], This method was successfuly applied for a number of years in a physics laboratory course.

The main results of our studies are presented here. T he primary idea of the proposed approach is a so-called «method of repeated investigation» [2]. In this method, the students are invited to independently study several microproblems, The results of these studies are, of course, known to the instructors, but are absolutely unknown to the students. Without a doubt, the instructor helps the students solve these problems, but this help is not direct.

The instructor asks a number of special questions, and in some cases gives the students some hints, In the proposed method, assigned exercises and problems connected with them are the same as in usual accepted methods. The novelty in our method lies in the series of special questions. The basis for these questions is the same for all types of exercises. Thus, in working on different exercises, the student must solve the same supplementary problems in each case. These supplementary problems should develop the creative ability of the student.

The supplementary problems are divided into four standard classes. To solve them, the student must answer a series of questions. Examples of such questions are presented below. The supplementary questions expand the traditional themes usually studied in laboratory courses. The first class of questions ask students to find factors impeding the experiment or limiting the experimental technique. The second class of questions ask the students for recommendations for possible improvement of the experiment; these recommendations should help exclude possible experimental errors. Answers to questions of the first class must be known to effectively answer questions of the second class. To improve the experimental procedure, the students were posed a third class of question, asking them to give improved sequences and content of the experimental operations, especially for the case of complex operations. Finally, the last class of questions invited students to propose new methods for measurement of the physical quantity being studied. All necessary information was available to the students, in spite of the fact that direct reminders and indications of methods were not given in the theoretical part of the course.