Parallel Pedagogy

Learning the Concepts Simultaneously, Introductory Mechanics

Pete Schwartz, Cal Poly Physics

We can 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. 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 this July 2020 AAPT presentation,  this short video, and in this manuscript:

Additionally, I’ve announced this curriculum here in the OpenStax Physics Hub, and here in OERcommons.

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:

Lastly, the instructor is free to make use of the questions and solutions posted on the websites from the last five 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: Go to the most recent class taught below in the area that interests you. Copy the websites and rearrange the lessons to fit your calendar. 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 me with questions, collaboration, or comments.

Calculus Based Classes: Fall 2019 (presently being developed), 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,

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