Parallel Pedagogy

Learning the Concepts Simultaneously, Introductory Mechanics

Pete Schwartz, Cal Poly Physics

In Parallel Pedagogy, we learn physics much the same way we learn our first language – we just start using it while increasing complexity through iteration. Most every sixth grader can distinguish energy, momentum, force, and motion. Parallel Pedagogy begins there; stresses concepts, problem solving and picture drawing; while adding math only as it becomes necessary. Students learning Parallel Pedagogy better apply concepts and think more like experts than students in conventional classes (see publications below).  Most students prefer this method and the great majority claim that this method makes them think more about concepts. This approach is briefly described in 20-minute video, July 2021 AAPT presentation.  For more information, please see:

INSTRUCTORS: This curriculum, and all the resources are offered to you free.  You just need to go to our Canvas Commons and search “parallel pedagogy”, and you will have the entire course shell set up.

While any kind of teaching environment would work for Parallel Pedagogy, I prefer a flipped classroom. Before class, students watch videos and answer questions through a web platform that records their participation. These videos and online questions are free and publicly available – see table at bottom. The class is also supported by three short, concise textbooks, which are open source, and free for you to use, download, and distribute as you find best supports your classes:

Instructors are free to make use of the questions and solutions posted on the websites from the classes I have directed and am presenting directing (below). Additionally, through these websites, you can see my comprehensive student evaluations and the priorities and narrative developed in my classes.

I like the flipped classroom, because it leaves the class time open for demos, activities and group problem solving. Most of the homework problems are addressed (but usually not completed) during class. However, the parallel pedagogy could be taught in traditional lecture format equally as well.

My Advice for Easy Adoption of Parallel Pedagogy Curriculum: After you copy or take the curriculum from our Canvas shell, set up an account on PlayPosit (I think it’s about $100 a year for you, but free for your students) and copy my set of “video-question bulbs”. This will allow you to immediately start teaching. You can tailor the video questions and switch out other videos as you become comfortable with the format.

Please contact us with questions, collaboration, or comments.,

Calculus Based Classes: Spring 2024, Fall 2023, Winter 2022, Fall 2021, Winter 2021 (a double class via Zoom), Fall 2019, Fall 2018Winter 2018, Fall 2017, Spring 2017

Algebra Based Class: Spring 2020 (shortened curriculum, via Zoom). Winter 2020, Spring 2018, Winter 2019

Videos are posted on Youtube. Through PlayPosit, the instructor posits questions for the students to answer and saves this watching experience as a “bulb”.  Student participation is recorded for the instructor. The public is welcome to copy my set of bulbs as a starting point to being their curriculum. Below, at left are the links for my students who want credit for the class. In the middle are links for the public who do not need to enroll in PlayPosit (although it doesn’t cost anything). Direct links to Youtube videos are at the right. Many of these videos are marginal at best and should be redone. If you make a video that you want to share, please send me the link.

Public Talk about Parallel Pedagogy


  • Pete Schwartz, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo,
  • Dean Stocker, University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College,
  • Jenn Klay, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo,
  • Jason Tong, Brookline High School,
  • Johan Tabora, Physics Teacher, UIC Master Teaching Fellow
  • Frank Cascarano, Foothill College, Los Altos: “I have had no complaints from the students and several students tell me they like this new approach.  But, I can tell you that after teaching for 17 years, I am invigorated by it.”

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