A Quantum Leap toward success: An instructor spotlight on Amy Pope

View all tags
Kristin Marang
Closeup of a row of students, listening to a ninstructor, while writing down information

Amy Pope is an award-winning senior lecturer in physics and astronomy at Clemson University. A Clemson alumna herself, Amy has her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in physics, and has devoted the last 22 years to teaching physics at her alma mater.

Clemson has “a large focus on teaching and making sure that students have the number one engagement experience in their classes,” Amy explains. Which is part of what makes Clemson stand out, in addition to being a “fun, close-knit community.”

Amy shares Clemson’s commitment to delivering engaging learning experiences, while also making learning affordable. As Amy describes it, “excessive cost is certainly a barrier to student success.” With that in mind, it’s a priority for Amy to use an affordable, effective learning platform, tied to a physics textbook she can trust.

“Excessive cost is certainly a barrier to student success.”

– Amy Pope

Amy was introduced to Mastering® when she chose Pearson’s Physics by James S. Walker as her preferred textbook. “I love Mastering because it gives me the ability to give students, kind of that elevated practice with the feedback,” she explains. Another strength of Mastering for Amy is that it’s available with a digital version of the Walker textbook. “The price point came down significantly through the use of online textbooks,” she explains.

James S. Walker’s Physics is available to students in a package that includes Mastering Physics, plus the eTextbook version of the book, at a price well below the cost of the print edition. “Since the book went online, it is very affordable to have the Mastering platform,” Amy adds.

Beyond affordability, Amy explains that she’s “always loved the Mastering platform” because of the immediate feedback students get when they make a mistake on a homework problem. Aware that her “students like to Google things and find solutions everywhere,” Amy prefers that “with Mastering, the feedback is built in.” As Amy recalls it, “the feedback will say, ‘Oh, check and see if you have a square root’ or, you know, ‘See if your answer is off by a factor of two.’”

As a result, she explains, “the students are actually able to work through the problems and get hints on how to solve [them]. So that's a very important mechanism that's in place for the students.”

“Since the book went online, it is very affordable to have the Mastering platform”

– Amy Pope

Amy also notes that she “loves a lot of the new mechanisms in Mastering,” singling out the Worked Example and Solution Videos as a favorite new feature. The Worked Example problems are taken directly from the text, and the Solution Videos use step-by-step guidance to reinforce the problem-solving methods that the author uses in the book. “I love how they have [them] for each chapter,” Amy adds.

“Because so many of our students are, you know, glued to their telephone or glued to the computer screen,” Amy explains, she feels that the Solution Videos are a great way for her students to get step-by-step instruction, while watching the animation that goes with it. “I like to assign those for my students,” she adds—and since they’re embedded in the eTextbook and assignable in Mastering Physics, it’s a seamless process.

Each semester, Amy assigns the Walker Physics eTextbook and the Mastering Physics platform to her Physics I and Physics II students. She does her best to inspire about 600 students to fall in love with physics every semester. That means she has 600 assignments to grade every time she requires homework. “That is one reason why I have to have an online grading platform,” Amy explains, “and Mastering makes it really easy to grade.” Amy also notes that the ability to “give extensions,” if needed, “at the individual student level,” is another feature that helps her support each student’s unique needs.

“I have to have an online grading platform, and Mastering makes it really easy to grade.”

– Amy Pope

According to Amy, her “students are much happier with the questions” she assigns in Mastering because she’s “able to use the authoring tool” to make the voice of the questions match the approach she uses in class. “In general,” Amy explains, “students hate homework because it has a different voice than the instructor,” but “changing the voice of the questions has really made the students more content.”

“I want students to be able to think, and reason and solve problems,” she notes, “and the [Mastering] homework gives [them] practice with a different set of problems. The scenarios are different, and so that pushes [them] out of their comfort zone and allows them to really practice problem solving.”

Another challenge that Amy tackles every semester is getting technology in place for approximately 600 physics students to learn—a goal that she finds completely doable with Mastering. “The level of service makes Mastering kind of a no-brainer,” Amy explains. In her experience, out of 600 students, generally 5-10% will have common computer issues, like “using a browser that’s not compatible or [not realizing they] have the pop-up blocker turned on. My Pearson book rep set up office hours and she will get on calls with individual students and help them walk through all those issues,” Amy says. “The help is fantastic,” she adds. “Mastering is the best.”

“The level of service makes Mastering kind of a no-brainer.”

– Amy Pope