HOW ROBERT WICHARD POHL TRANSFORMED THE TEACHING OF PHYSICS
Robert Wichard Pohl (1884-1976) was an experimental physicist who taught at the University of Göttingen starting in 1919. The introductory lecture to his physics course created a great sensation with its focus on live demonstrations and the unprecedented use of shadow casting. Through modifications to his lecture hall, development of unique presentation equipment and the authorship of a world-renowned textbook entitled Introduction to Physics, Pohl established an iconic, influential methodology still reflected in today’s approach to the teaching of physics.
umgePOHLt is a digital exhibition based on a research project by Dr. Michael Markert that explores the technology supporting Pohl’s innovative approach to learning about physics, examines his teaching style and reflects on his enduring influence. The exhibition title “umgePOHLt” is a German play on words that translates to “reversed”, and invokes the idea of pole reversal, alluding to both a magnetic field phenomenon in physics and Pohl’s transformation of the teaching paradigm.
Set in various time periods, four characters describe Pohl’s impact on their experiences as a student, a lecture hall technician, a teacher and a lecturer. Buttons at the end of each section open a Mind Map that provides access to a range of additional topics
1920er & 1930er year
Hans is a student who was captivated by Pohl’s introductory lecture and is now working on his doctorate at the 1st Physics Institute at Göttingen University. He explains why he found the lecture so fascinating and offers additional insight into Pohl’s life, including his response to the political emergence of National Socialism.
Lecture Hall Technician
1950er & 1960er year
Gerd is a lecture hall technician who invites us to his workplace and describes the process of preparing for a lecture presentation. Technicians were an integral part of successful lectures even in Pohl’s time, using their knowledge and experience to set up experiments and special devices such as Pohl’s indispensible carbon arc lamp.
Michael is a teacher who used Pohl’s physics textbook while studying at Göttingen and continues to use it now with his own students. Michael was so impressed by the experimental lectures conducted by Pohl’s successors that he regularly describes these events to his pupils, sometimes even recreating the demonstrations in the classroom.
Sabine is a lecturer at the University of Göttingen where she and several of her colleagues are now responsible for the introductory experimental physics lecture. She discusses what has changed since Pohl’s era and describes the role played by demonstration experiments in contemporary lectures. Comments from Sabine, other lecturers and students are all presented here.