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Integrative Learning

Dr. James Conwell

Dr. James Conwell, a Professor in Physics at EIU, discusses how he utilizes Integrative Learning in the classroom.


Integrative Learning is an area that EIU takes very seriously. Integrative Learning means connecting skills and knowledge from multiple sources and experiences; applying theory to practice in various settings; utilizing diverse and even contradictory points of view; and, understanding issues and positions contextually. Significant knowledge within individual disciplines serves as the foundation, but integrative learning goes beyond academic boundaries. Indeed, integrative experiences often occur as learners address real-world problems, unscripted and sufficiently broad to require multiple areas of knowledge and multiple modes of inquiry, offering multiple solutions and benefiting from multiple perspectives.

The Physics Department fully embraces the Eastern Integrative Experience. Many of the initiatives and directions of the Integrative Experience are standard operating procedure for the Physics Department. Vertical Integrative Learning is how the curriculum is set up in this discipline, going from lower level courses to higher level courses in a defined sequence. Horizontal Integrative Learning is also encouraged by the curriculum as it is designed, so learning in lab complements the lecture and Math is necessary to discuss the concepts in Physics. Global and Cosmic Integrative Learning are also somewhat endemic to Physics as a subject. Finally, Personal Integrative Learning which focuses on the individual is essential for a well rounded Physics major and the Department makes efforts to ensure this aspect of the student’s education.

Hands-on experience

Physics major Joshua Harden uses equipment in the department to gain hands-on experience.


Integrative Learning is part of the culture of Physics. The universality of the subject lends itself well to the concepts of Integrative Learning. Problem solving is at the heart of most Physics courses. Students are taught in a number of collaborative settings. At some points in the curriculum students are expected to reflect on their total knowledge and draw connections that they may not have drawn before. The small size of the Physics Department means that each student is not lost in the numbers and has many individualized interactions with faculty members. It also means that the faculty know their students and the students know their faculty.


Challenging Curriculum



Dr. Daniels directs the laser beam from the 4 Watt Argon Ion Laser to the non-linear optics experiment he is working on.


Over the four years of the Physics curriculum our students grow and mature both in their field and in their lives. We have a curriculum that guides the student through a maturation process in math and science by continuously challenging them and increasing their knowledge base. We offer a carefully developed sequence of courses that range from introductory up through Electricity and Magnetism and Quantum Mechanics. In addition, we offer mentored research in a variety of areas for the student to learn independence and specialized techniques. Students are encouraged to participate in the Society of Physics Students as well as our Astronomy Club. These organizations help the student to see the social and global citizenship that is necessary in today’s society. Our graduates find that they have learned the breadth and depth of the field and are ready to take their place with an understanding of how they fit into society.


Seven Possible Majors

The Physics Department offers 7 different options for graduation. Whether your interest is Astronomy or Engineering we can tailor a curriculum to fit your needs. These options all start out with introductory Physics so there is no need to make your decision immediately. But as you learn about the different areas of Physics you can determine what works best for you. If you are set on Engineering we can prepare you well for transfer to an Engineering program with the important science and math background for success. If you are planning to be a teacher you will learn Physics as well as Math and Chemistry to be certified to teach a number of different areas. You will also be highly qualified to teach AP Physics in Illinois. We offer Computational Physics, Applied Physics, Radiation Physics, and Astronomy for people that want to direct their efforts in these areas. Of course, we offer the standard Physics degree for the person who wants a basic knowledge ranging from the smallest fundamental particle to the entire Universe. Whatever your interest and choice we will challenge you and prepare you for your career.


Achieve your goals



A student gets hands on experience measuring Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). NMR is the basic science behind the MRI used by doctors in hospitals every day.


Whether it's getting a professional job, a teaching job, or going on to a Ph.D. program, our students have been very successful after they graduate our program. Physics students consistently score the highest in the University on tests for critical thinking. We find that the personal approach with small class size works well to enhance student learning. Our students gain career experience through grading and tutoring as well as internships. Our students get research experience as well as experience presenting at scientific meetings. In the end, our students get an education that serves them well in whatever direction they go.