Curricular Resources

A University Physics Curriculum to Meet New AP Physics Demands

New learning goals for the AP Physics Exams will be fully implemented by 2020, putting a stronger emphasis on conceptual understanding and scientific reasoning practices. IPaSS fills a critical need at a critical time, as physics teachers seek more instructional resources and support to adapt to the new instructional demands put upon them by this curricular change. These demands include greater focus on conceptual learning and inquiry-based lab practices; the very things the Physics Education Research (PER) group at U of I has been focused on during the redesign of its own undergraduate courses.

Award-Winning Curriculum

The original curriculum described here, from which all IPaSS course materials are adapted, won the APS 2012 Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education. Although the IPaSS curriculum in its original format is intended for advanced high school physics students, it can easily be adapted for students who have little to no prior exposure to physics, or otherwise require more support.

The IPaSS curricular materials available to our high school partners include adapted versions of key components of the U of I undergraduate physics curriculum:

  • design-based lab activities targeting scientific skill development, using iOLabs
  • a web-based "flipped" platform, smartPhysics, that contains online pre-lectures, pre-labs and homework
  • a repository of additional resources such as group problem-solving activities, interactive lectures
  • quizzes and exams

~Labs Focused On Experimental Design~

The iOLab

These lab activities utilize the iOLab wireless lab system, invented by U of I Physics Professors Mats Selen and Tim Stelzer. The iOLab is a compact device that contains all sensors necessary for hundreds of physics labs, and a wireless interface that supports quick data collection and analysis.

Due to its ease of use and diverse functionality, the iOLab promotes student freedom to design their own experiments to engage with more open lab-prompts. The IPaSS partnership gives teachers supported access to these devices at no cost to the school for the duration of teachers’ engagement with the program.

Explore iOLab

Professor Mats Selen Demonstrates iOLab

~A Streamlined System for Preparation and Practice~

The smartPhysics Online Platform

Teachers in the IPaSS program have access to resources used in U of I's undergraduate physics courses via the U of I developed smartPhysics online platform (publicly available as FlipItPhysics). Teachers may create their own course within smartPhysics, selecting activities that best support their course scope and sequence.

Prepare: Online pre-lectures provide students with video overviews of the topics that will be covered in future lectures, priming students to absorb new information. Checkpoints give students an opportunity to dabble in the pre-lecture content ahead of the lecture; aggregate student data from checkpoint problems provides instructors with a snapshot of student understanding that can be used in crafting plans for lectures. Pre-labs include videos and short experiments completed before lab section online; they are designed to shift procedural issues out of the lab so that students can spend the bulk of their time designing experiments and analyzing data.

Practice: Online Homework consists of research-based problem formats. The smartPhysics system can provide immediate or delayed feedback to students to let them know when the answer is correct, or pinpoint a misconception they might be having based on their answer. Homework assignments begin with mastery assignments that provide students with a limited number of attempts, followed by standard exercises that build in difficulty, and finally more complicated interactive examples that provide several layers of scaffolding based on student need.

Explore smartPhysics

~A Repository of Instructional Resources to Promote Active Learning~

Additional Resources

In addition to gaining access to the online resources and iOLab activities, teachers in the IPaSS program may also choose to adapt university lectures and discussion problem sets to the needs of their classrooms. A repository of these resources is provided to teachers as they craft their courses.


Interact: Lectures are built around clicker questions and reviews of student data from checkpoint problems completed prior to the session. Discussions build from where homework leaves off, presenting students with challenging problems that require deep integration of the content are best solved in small groups.

Scope and Sequence

Many of our materials have been piloted in AP Physics C courses and have gained approval for use by the College Board. For teachers looking to see how our resources fit into their current curriculum, we have created an overview of which of our resources we think would best support student learning for each AP Physics  standard.

View Sample Scope and Sequence