Course Information

PHYS 1101W will provide students with the opportunity to learn fundamental physics principles and complex problem-solving skills needed for more advanced study.

Class size limit: 25

Sample Syllabus

U of M Catalog Description

Fundamental principles of physics in the context of everyday world. Use of kinematics/dynamics principles and quantitative/qualitative problem-solving techniques to understand natural phenomena. Lecture, recitation, lab.

Student Qualifications

Junior or senior who has earned a B or better in a rigorous high school algebra 2/trigonometry course (or equivalent) AND completed prerequisite courses in algebra and geometry. Exceptional 10th graders may enroll, with the approval of the CIS instructor and the U of M faculty coordinator.

Instructor Qualifications

Instructors apply and are selected by faculty in accordance with the U of M policy governing Academic Appointments with Teaching Functions. Once approved, an instructor is appointed as a Teaching Specialist 9754 (University Job Title and Code) in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies. Instructor qualifications are determined by the sponsoring University department.

View the Instructor Applicant Handbook for course-specific qualifications and application steps. 


College Physics – Vol 1, 3rd edition (2015), 2nd custom printing by Randall D. Knight. ISBN: 9781269918367 (cost is approximately $97 at the University of Minnesota Bookstore in 2021), or an equivalent, preapproved college physics text.

Lab manual is provided free of charge. Laboratory equipment equivalent to the labs at the University.

Students are required to have the following equipment: Ti-30xa Calculator or other simple scientific calculator. These are the only type of calculator that will be permitted during quizzes and the final exam. NO GRAPHING CALCULATORS ARE PERMITTED.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the texts and readings specified or mandated by the University of Minnesota? If not, what are some of the choices?
Use of the same text is preferred. Alternate texts must be preapproved by the faculty coordinator and must be algebra-based, college physics texts. The Lab Manual for PHYS 1101W must be used.

Do teachers have a choice in assignments? Are there required assignments?
PHYS 1101W is a writing-intensive course. There are four to five lab reports, and grading, comments, and rewrites are governed by the University Writing Intensive requirements (see link above). Students must do all the labs (or approved equivalents) from the lab manual. Other required assignments include group problem solving of complex (context-rich) problems. Prelab and prelecture quizzes are optional.

Who creates the exams?
University faculty. Students take the common final given to all PHYS 1101W students. Midterm exams are devised from test bank questions.

Is there a training and mentoring system for physics teachers new to CIS?
Yes. When you begin teaching PHYS 1101W you will be joining a group of high school teachers who share ideas and materials with each other through email and teacher workshops. New teachers also benefit from an orientation to College in the Schools that will familiarize them with the support available through CIS as well as prepare them for administrative tasks such as registering students and posting grades.

High school class schedules vary; can a teacher in the block system teach PHYS 1101W?
Yes, as long as the high school term allows for a minimum of 110 contact hours.

What happens at typical teacher workshops?
Typical activities at CIS workshops include meeting University faculty and hearing about their recent research in the discipline; reviewing and/or developing student assessment tools; sharing instructional materials; discussing particular content, pedagogy, or assessment of the University course; and receiving updates on CIS program policies and practices.

What happens at typical student field days?
Student field days provide an opportunity for CIS students to meet their peers, practice skills they have learned in class, and explore the Twin Cities campus. Recent field days have included a Physics Force mini-show, lab tours, a scavenger hunt, and an introduction to physics research at the University.

How does Introductory College Physics I (PHYS 1101W) differ from Physics by Inquiry (CI 1563) offered by CIS?
Introductory College Physics I (PHYS 1101W) is a traditional algebra-based introductory college physics course. The course provides students with the opportunity to learn fundamental physics principles and complex problem-solving skills needed for more advanced study. PHYS 1101W is an appropriate course for students who are good at math and who are interested in studies in science or engineering. PHYS 1101W is a required course at the U of M for students with majors in fields such as architecture and kinesiology.

Physics by Inquiry (CI 1563) is a physics course designed primarily (though not exclusively) for nonscience majors and future teachers. It focuses on students learning physics by participating in the process of scientific discovery and applying that content to solving qualitative problems, rather than on the quantitative problem solving found in a traditional physics course. In addition, the content (ranging from properties of magnets, to light and color and optics, to astronomy and others) differs from that found in a traditional physics course. Students collaborate with their peers to conduct experiments, generate theories of how things work based on their observations, and refine their theories by further experimentation. Emphasis in the course is placed on knowing the evidence that supports a theory. The nontraditional perspective of learning physics through hands-on experimentation and peer discussion, and making use of evidence in scientific argumentation makes this course useful for students whether or not they are interested in further studies in science.

High Schools Offering This Course

  • Centennial High School (Circle Pines)
  • Como Park Senior High School (Saint Paul)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall (Saint Paul)
  • Hill-Murray High School (Maplewood)
  • Johnson Senior High School (Saint Paul)
  • Mahtomedi High School
  • Mounds View High School (Saint Paul)
  • New London-Spicer High School
  • New Prague High School
  • Pipestone Area High School
  • Richfield High School
  • Roosevelt High School (Minneapolis)
  • Two Rivers High School (Mendota Heights)
  • Waconia High School
  • Waseca High School
  • Washington Technology Magnet School (Saint Paul)