Smith, Rachel Clara
The field of physics is heavily male dominated in America. Thus, half of the population of our country is underrepresented and underserved. The identification of factors that contribute to gender disparity in physics is necessary for educators to address the individual needs of students, and, in particular, the separate and specific needs of female students. In an effort to determine if any correlations could be established or strengthened between sex, gender identity, social network, algebra skill, scientific reasoning ability, and/or student attitude, a study was performed on a group of 82 students in an introductory algebra based physics course. The subjects each filled out a survey at the beginning of the semester of their first semester of algebra based physics. They filled out another survey at the end of that same semester. These surveys included physics content pretests and posttests, as well as questions about the students' habits, attitudes, and social networks. Correlates of posttest score were identified, in order of significance, as pretest score, emphasis on conceptual learning, preference for male friends, number of siblings (negatively correlated), motivation in physics, algebra score, and parents' combined education level. Number of siblings was also found to negatively correlate with, in order of significance, gender identity, preference for male friends, emphasis on conceptual learning, and motivation in physics. Preference for male friends was found to correlate with, in order of significance, emphasis on conceptual learning, gender identity, and algebra score. Also, gender identity was found to correlate with emphasis on conceptual learning, the strongest predictor of posttest score other than pretest score.
Garriott, Angela; Bush, Leah; Ramos, Roberto
We report our experience in using the IPAD as a pedagogical tool for enhancing physics learning in an introductory algebra-based physics laboratory course for primarily pre-med students. We used several applications including (1) video analysis for experiments in accelerated motion (2) virtual oscilloscope for studying wave motion and circuit response to low frequency driving voltages; (3) applications for visualization of electric fields and magnetic fields. We compare student responses to this platform versus more traditional experiments. Using student surveys and polls. We also evaluate the IPAD as a new and familiar interface versus traditional interfaces like the standard oscilloscope. We report on the advantages and disadvantages of using this mobile, popular platform in delivering experimental physics content and promoting student engagement.
The student success rate in the algebra-based Introductory General Physics I course at the University of Houston (UH) and across the United States is low in comparison to success rates in other service courses. In order to improve student success rates, we have implemented, in addition to interactive teaching techniques, pre-testing as an early intervention process to identify and remediate at-risk students. The pre-testing includes a math and problem-solving skills diagnostic exam and pre-tests administered prior to all regular exams. Students identified as at risk based on their scores on these pre-tests are given incentives to utilize a tutoring intervention consisting of on-line math tutoring to address math deficiencies and tutoring by graduate Physics Teaching Assistants to address student understanding of the physics concepts. Results from 503 students enrolled in three sections of the course showed that 78% of the students identified as at-risk students by the diagnostic exam who completed the math tutorial successfully completed the course, as compared to 45% of at-risk students who did not complete the math tutorial. Results of the pre-testing before each regular exam showed that all students who were identified as at risk based on pre-test scores had positive gains ranging from 9 -- 32% for the three regular exams. However, the large standard deviations of these gains indicate that they are not statistically significant; therefore, pretesting before exams will not be offer in the course. However, utilization of the math tutorials as remediation will continue to be offered to all sections of the algebra-based course at UH with the goal of significantly improving the overall success rates for the introductory physics courses.
de Leone, Charles
The success of quantitative and computational methods of research in the biological sciences has incited calls for change in the undergraduate biological sciences curriculum. This reevaluation of the biology curriculum presents physicists with an opportunity to rethink and rebuild service courses such as the introductory algebra based physics course. Beyond the one-year introductory course, some of the more ambitious curricular reforms include calls for a third semester of physics for students who plan on doing biomedical research. This talk will briefly explore the open question of how we can best serve the evolving needs of our colleagues in biology by considering the calls for change in the biology curriculum such as BIO 2010 and reviewing the current state of the introductory physics course for biologists. In addition, this talk will review the successes and failures of research based courses such as the introductory calculus-based physics course for biologists at Cal State San Marcos.
Meltzer, David E.
In order to improve the degree of conceptual learning in our algebra-based general physics course, the second semester (of a two-semester sequence) has been taught in a nontraditional format during the past year. The key characteristics of this course were: 1) Intense and continuous use of interactive-engagement methods and cooperative learning; 2) coverage of less than half of the conventional number of topics, 3) heavy emphasis on qualitative questions as opposed to quantitative problems, 4) adjustment of the pacing of the course based on continuous (twice per week) formative assessment. The students enrolled in the course were relatively poorly prepared, with weak mathematical skills. Open-book quizzes stressing qualitative concepts in electricity and magnetism were given twice per week; most were given in "group quiz" format, allowing collaboration. Exams (also open-book) were all done individually. Most of the class time was taken up by quizzes, and by interactive discussion and group work related to quiz questions. New topics were not introduced until a majority of the class demonstrated competence in the topic under discussion. Despite lengthy and intensive focus on qualitative, conceptual questions and simple quantitative problems, only a small minority of the class ultimately demonstrated mastery of the targeted concepts. Frequent testing and re-testing of the students on basic concepts disclosed tenacious persistence of misconceptions.
Adams, Neil D.
This paper describes the Introductory Physics I and II courses taught by the author via the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's Kentucky Virtual University (KYVU). Students can register for a KYVU course either online or at their local college. Because many of the students are not highly computer literate, and they may be working on…
Brahmia, Suzanne M.
Mathematization is central to STEM disciplines as a cornerstone of the quantitative reasoning that characterizes these fields. Introductory physics is required for most STEM majors in part so that students develop expert-like mathematization. This dissertation describes coordinated research and curriculum development for strengthening mathematization in introductory physics; it blends scholarship in physics and mathematics education in the form of three papers. The first paper explores mathematization in the context of physics, and makes an original contribution to the measurement of physics students' struggle to mathematize. Instructors naturally assume students have a conceptual mastery of algebra before embarking on a college physics course because these students are enrolled in math courses beyond algebra. This paper provides evidence that refutes the validity of this assumption and categorizes some of the barriers students commonly encounter with quantification and representing ideas symbolically. The second paper develops a model of instruction that can help students progress from their starting points to their instructor's desired endpoints. Instructors recognize that the introductory physics course introduces new ideas at an astonishing rate. More than most physicists realize, however, the way that mathematics is used in the course is foreign to a large portion of class. This paper puts forth an instructional model that can move all students toward better quantitative and physical reasoning, despite the substantial variability of those students' initial states. The third paper describes the design and testing of curricular materials that foster mathematical creativity to prepare students to better understand physics reasoning. Few students enter introductory physics with experience generating equations in response to specific challenges involving unfamiliar quantities and units, yet this generative use of mathematics is typical of the thinking involved in
Langbeheim, Elon; Livne, Shelly; Safran, Samuel A.; Yerushalmi, Edit
We describe an elective course on soft matter at the level of introductory physics. Soft matter physics serves as a context that motivates the presentation of basic ideas in statistical thermodynamics and their applications. It also is an example of a contemporary field that is interdisciplinary and touches on chemistry, biology, and physics. We outline a curriculum that uses the lattice gas model as a quantitative and visual tool, initially to introduce entropy, and later to facilitate the calculation of interactions. We demonstrate how free energy minimization can be used to teach students to understand the properties of soft matter systems such as the phases of fluid mixtures, wetting of interfaces, self-assembly of surfactants, and polymers. We discuss several suggested activities in the form of inquiry projects which allow students to apply the concepts they have learned to experimental systems.
Yoder, Garett; Cook, Jerry
The Department of Physics at EKU [Eastern Kentucky University] with support from the National Science Foundations Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Program has successfully converted our entire introductory physics sequence, both algebra-based and calculus-based courses, to an activity-based format where laboratory activities,…
We describe an effort to develop and to implement a college-level introductory physics (mechanics) MOOC that offers bona fide laboratory experiences. We also discuss efforts to use MOOC curricular materials to ``flip'' the classroom in a large lecture introductory physics course offered on-campus at Georgia Tech. Preliminary results of assessments and surveys from both MOOC and on-campus students will be presented.
In an after-dinner talk at the fall 2005 meeting of the New England chapter of the AAPT, Professor Robert Arns drew an analogy between classical physics and Classic Coke. To generations of physics teachers and textbook writers, classical physics was the real thing. Modern physics, which in introductory textbooks "appears in one or more extra…
Bowen, Mark Ryan
Epistemologies were measured across two separate lecture sections of introductory algebra-based physics at UC Davis. Remarkable differences in epistemologies, as measured by the MPEX II survey were noted with one section's students (section A) showing significantly better gains in almost all epistemological categories than the other (section…
Di Stefano, Maria C.
The last two decades or so have witnessed intense efforts to improve the teaching and learning of physics. Scholarly studies have provided the grounding for many projects which reform the structure of introductory courses. A number of these innovations, however, are resource intensive, or depend on the ability to introduce changes in areas which are beyond the control of the faculty (e.g., scheduling), thus inhibiting their implementation. An alternative strategy that overcomes these obstacles is to modify the nature of the laboratory experience (a component that practically nobody disputes is an essential part of the introductory course), to provide hands-on learning opportunities that differ from the traditional "follow-this-recipe-to-verify-this-law" approach. I have chosen to implement a variety of activities that support the overall objectives of the course: developing conceptual understanding and transferable skills, and providing practice in the ways scientists actually do science. Given the audience in this two-semester, algebra-based course, mostly biology majors and pre-professionals (health-related careers, such as medicine, physical therapy, and veterinary), these goals were identified as the most important and lasting contribution that a physics course can make to the students intellectual development. I offer here examples of the types of hands on activities that I have implemented, organized for the sake of this presentation in four rather loose categories, depending on which subset of the course objectives the activities mostly address: self-designed lab activities, discussion of demo-type activities, building concepts from simple to complex, and out-of-lab physical phenomena.
Overduin, James; Molloy, Dana; Selway, Jim
Electromagnetic induction is probably one of the most challenging subjects for students in the introductory physics sequence, especially in algebra-based courses. Yet it is at the heart of many of the devices we rely on today. To help students grasp and retain the concept, we have put together a simple and dramatic classroom demonstration that…
Williams, H. Thomas
Contends that the large vocabulary used for precise purposes in physics contains many words that have related but potentially confusing meanings in everyday usage. Analyzes the treatment of Newton's Laws of Motion in several well-known introductory textbooks for evidence of inconsistent language use. Makes teaching suggestions. (Contains 11…
Guilaran, Ildefonso J.
When I was an undergraduate physics major, I would often stay up late with my physics major roommate as we would digest the physics content we were learning in our courses and explore our respective imaginations armed with our new knowledge. Such activity during my undergraduate years was confined to informal settings, and the first formal…
In an after-dinner talk at the fall 2005 meeting of the New England chapter of the AAPT, Professor Robert Arns drew an analogy between classical physics and Classic Coke. To generations of physics teachers and textbook writers, classical physics was the real thing. Modern physics, which in introductory textbooks "appears in one or more extra chapters at the end of the book, … is a divertimento that we might get to if time permits." Modern physics is more like vanilla or lime Coke, probably a fad, while "Classic Coke is part of your life; you do not have to think about it twice."
Guilaran, Ildefonso (Fonsie) J.
When I was an undergraduate physics major, I would often stay up late with my physics major roommate as we would digest the physics content we were learning in our courses and explore our respective imaginations armed with our new knowledge. Such activity during my undergraduate years was confined to informal settings, and the first formal creativity assignment in my physics education did not come until well into my graduate years when my graduate advisor demanded that I write a prospectus for my dissertation. I have often lamented the fact that the first formal assignment in which I was required to be creative, take responsibility for my own learning and research objectives, and see them to completion during my physics education came so late, considering the degree to which creative attributes are celebrated in the personalities of great physicists. In this essay I will apply some of the basic concepts as defined by creativity-related psychology literature to physics pedagogy, relate these concepts to the exchanges in this journal concerning Michael Sobel's paper "Physics for the Non-Scientist: A Middle Way," and provide the framework for a low-overhead creativity assignment that can easily be implemented at all levels of physics education.
Mylott, Elliot; Kutschera, Ellynne; Dunlap, Justin C.; Christensen, Warren; Widenhorn, Ralf
We will describe a one-quarter pilot algebra-based introductory physics course for pre-health and life science majors. The course features videos with biomedical experts and cogent biomedically inspired physics content. The materials were used in a flipped classroom as well as an all-online environment where students interacted with multimedia…
Hill, Robert L.; Grosnick, D.; Ober, D.
For several years measures of student performance have been investigated in the first semester of the two-semester algebra-based physics course. Preand post-tests using the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) and course grades were used as measures of student performance and preparation. In addition, information on high school preparation in physics and mathematics, student demographics (college major, classification, SAT math scores, etc.), and grades earned were collected. Results will be presented that indicate high school physics preparation, college major, and SAT math scores strongly correlate with grade earned, FCI pre-instruction scores, and FCI normalized gains. Using the current investigation and institutional data from the work of Coletta and Phillips1, it will be shown that a strong correlation exists between FCI pre-instruction scores and normalized gain. 1. V.P. Coletta and J.A. Phillips, Am. J. Phys 73, 1172 (2005). *Work sponsored by PhysTEC and supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and FIPSE.
The algebra-based physics course is taken by Biology students, Pre-Pharmacy, Pre-Medical, and other health related majors such as medical imaging, physical therapy, and so on. Nearly 500 students take the course each Semester. Student learning is adversely impacted by poor math backgrounds as well as extensive work schedules outside of the classroom. We have been researching the use of an intensive flipped-classroom approach where students spend one to two hours each week preparing for class by reading the book, completing a series of conceptual problems, and viewing videos which describe the material. In class, the new response system Learning Catalytics is used which allows much richer problems to be posed in class and includes sketching figures, numerical or symbolic entries, short answers, highlighting text, etc in addition to the standard multiple choice questions. We make direct comparison of student learning for 1200 sudents who have taken the same tests, 25% of which used the flipped classroom approach, and 75% who took a more standard lecture. There is significant evidence of improvements in student learning for students taking the flipped classroom approach over standard lectures. These benefits appear to impact students at all math backgrounds.
Martinuk, Mathew; Moll, Rachel F.; Kotlicki, Andrzej
Throughout North America the curriculum of introductory physics courses is nearly standardized. In 1992, Tobias wrote that four texts dominate 90% of the introductory physics market and current physics education research is focusing on how to sustain educational reforms. The instructional team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) recently…
I have explored the instructional value of using multiple-possibility problems (MPPs) in introductory physics courses. MPPs are different from problems we most often encounter in textbooks. They are different from regular problems since (1) they have missing information, vaguely defined goals or unstated constrains, (2) they possess multiple solutions with multiple criteria for evaluating the solutions, (3) they present uncertainty about which concepts, rules, and principles are necessary for the solution or how they are organized. Real-life problems and professional problems are MPPs. Students rarely encounter such problems in introductory physics courses. Kitchener (1983) proposed a three-level model of cognitive processing to categorize the thinking steps one makes when faced with such problems (cognition, metacognition, epistemic cognition). The critical and distinctive component of MPP solving is epistemic cognition. At that level individuals reflect on the limits of knowing, the certainty of knowing, the underlying assumptions made. It is an important part of thinking in real life. Firstly, I developed and tested a coding scheme for measuring epistemic cognition. Using the coding scheme I compared the epistemic cognition level of experts and novices by conducting think-aloud problem-solving interviews with them. Although experts had higher epistemic cognition level than novices, I documented some instances where a novice showed an expert-like epistemic cognition. I found that prompting question during interviews were 50% effective for students. Secondly, I tested the following two hypotheses by conducting two experimental design and one pre-post treatment design investigations in an algebra-based physics course at Rutgers University: Hypothesis 1: Solving MPPs enhances students' epistemic cognition; Hypothesis 2: Solving MPPs engages students in more meaningful problem solving and thus helps them construct a better conceptual understanding of physics. I found
Smith, Leigh; Sousa, Alexandre
Transferring existing active classroom educational efforts to new faculty is a challenge that must be met to ensure sustainability of changes. We describe a flipped class approach to teaching algebra-based Physics being transferred to a new faculty member. This flipped class includes extensive video and reading-based preparation materials outside of class, and the use of Learning Catalytics for in-class work is developed and tested by one of the authors. These materials are of course idiosyncratic to the style of the developer. Student results using the new materials are compared with students in more standard classes which suggest significant positive benefit over several years. A faculty member decided to use these materials in his own section of the same course. Our experience shows that it takes some time for the new faculty member to use and adapt the materials in a way which matches his own style, which in the end results in equivalently enhanced results. Lessons learned from this transfer process will be discussed. We acknowledge the financial support of the NSF through DUE 1544001 and 1431350.
Dark, Marta L.
This paper discusses the use of science fiction movies in introductory physics courses at Spelman College. There are several reasons to use these movies in the classroom environment. Movies are a visual learning aid. Introductory physics students show a strong interest in participating in movie-related activities compared to standard group problem-solving sessions. Finally, these activities encourage creative thinking and can be used to develop writing skills. The students involved with these movie-based activities have included biology and pre-medical majors taking general physics. In the introductory level courses, physics, chemistry, and engineering majors worked on movie-based activities.
Cosby, Ronald; Joe, Yong; McClay, Randall
Nanoscience instructional activities developed for introductory physics courses at the high school and college levels are described. Modules that introduce students to topics new to the typical introductory physics course focus on, e.g., molecular conductors, electrical properties of atomic chains, and new information storage technologies. Other materials support traditional instructional topics within the context of nanotechnology. In one featured activity, instructional exercises on Hooke's law and simple harmonic motion use the vibratory motion of a multi-walled carbon nanotube.
Teodorescu, Raluca; Bennhold, Cornelius; Feldman, Gerald
As part of an ongoing project to reform the introductory algebra-based physics courses at George Washington University, we are developing a taxonomy of introductory physics problems (TIPP) that establishes a connection between the physics problems, the type of physics knowledge they involve and the cognitive processes they develop in students. This taxonomy will provide, besides an algorithm for classifying physics problems, an organized and relatively easy-to-use database of physics problems that contains the majority of already created text-based and research-based types of problems. In addition, this taxonomy will reveal the kinds of physics problems that are still lacking and that are found to be necessary to enhance students' cognitive development. For this reason, we expect it to be a valuable teaching resource for physics instructors which will enable them to select the problems used in their curricular materials based on the specifics of their students' cognition and the learning objectives they want to achieve in their class. This organization scheme will also provide a framework for creating physics-related assessments with a cognitive component.
Entropy changes underlie the physics that dominates biological interactions. Indeed, introductory biology courses often begin with an exploration of the qualities of water that are important to living systems. However, one idea that is not explicitly addressed in most introductory physics or biology courses is important contribution of the entropy in driving fundamental biological processes towards equilibrium. I will present material developed to teach electrostatic screening in solutions and the function of nerve cells where entropic effects act to counterbalance electrostatic attraction. These ideas are taught in an introductory, calculus-based physics course to biomedical engineers using SCALEUP pedagogy. Results of student mastering of complex problems that cross disciplinary boundaries between biology and physics, as well as the challenges that they face in learning this material will be presented.
Overduin, James; Molloy, Dana; Selway, Jim
Electromagnetic induction is probably one of the most challenging subjects for students in the introductory physics sequence, especially in algebra-based courses. Yet it is at the heart of many of the devices we rely on today. To help students grasp and retain the concept, we have put together a simple and dramatic classroom demonstration that combines sight and sound with a compelling personal story from U.S. history. Other classroom activities dealing with induction have been discussed in this journal, but we believe that this one will be especially likely to attract and retain student interest, particularly in courses geared toward medical, biological, and other non-physics majors.
Clarage, James B.
Much of the mathematical reasoning employed in the typical introductory physics course can be traced to Pythagorean roots planted over two thousand years ago. Besides obvious examples involving the Pythagorean theorem, I draw attention to standard physics problems and derivations which often unknowingly rely upon the Pythagoreans' work on…
The problem examined in this study deals with students' attitude toward physics among the freshmen and sophomore students who were taking first introductory physics course. In the study there were 176 students, and they were chosen sample of convenience from Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida. 125 subjects were male students, and…
Hu, Ben Yu-Kuang
I describe a method of evaluating the integral of 1/r[superscript 2] with respect to r that uses only algebra and the concept of area underneath a curve, and which does not formally employ any calculus. This is useful for algebra-based introductory physics classes (where the use of calculus is forbidden) to derive the work done by the force of one…
Poduska, Ervin L.; Lunetta, Vincent N.
Examines the extent to which technology and applied physics should be included in introductory physics courses. Areas explored include the meaning of applied physics, the nature of pure and applied physics, and applied physics as viewed by a scientist, an educator, and society. Implications for the physics curriculum are addressed. (JN)
One of the intermediate goals of STEM education has been turning our students into problem solvers and critical thinkers who are equipped with better scientific analysis skills. In light of this initiative, it is imperative that we, the educators, modify the way we teach classic introductory physics topics, and in the long run all sciences, and…
Mitchell, G. E.
Provides the outline of an introductory college-level physics course which combines astronomy, astrophysics, relativity and communications with a study of civilizations and the conditions necessary for life. Student comments and an informal evaluation of the course are included. (CP)
Pollock, Steven J.; Finkelstein, Noah D.
While it is well known which curricular practices can improve student performance on measures of conceptual understanding, the sustaining of these practices and the role of faculty members in implementing these practices are less well understood. We present a study of the hand-off of "Tutorials in Introductory Physics" [McDermott and Schaffer…
Tait, Tim M. P.; Wang, Lian-Tao
These are elementary lectures about collider physics. They are aimed at graduate students who have some background in computing Feynman diagrams and the Standard Model, but assume no particular sophistication with the physics of high energy colliders.
Mason, Andrew J.
Reflection is essential in order to learn from problem solving. This thesis explores issues related to how reflective students are and how we can improve their capacity for reflection on problem solving. We investigate how students naturally reflect in their physics courses about problem solving and evaluate strategies that may teach them reflection as an integral component of problem-solving. Problem categorization based upon similarity of solution is a strategy to help them reflect about the deep features of the problems related to the physics principles involved. We find that there is a large overlap between the introductory and graduate students in their ability to categorize. Moreover, introductory students in the calculus-based courses performed better categorization than those in the algebra-based courses even though the categorization task is conceptual. Other investigations involved exploring if reflection could be taught as a skill on individual and group levels. Explicit self-diagnosis in recitation investigated how effectively students could diagnose their own errors on difficult problems, how much scaffolding was necessary for this purpose, and how effective transfer was to other problems employing similar principles. Difficulty in applying physical principles and difference between the self-diagnosed and transfer problems affected performance. We concluded that a sustained intervention is required to learn effective problem-solving strategies. Another study involving reflection on problem solving with peers suggests that those who reflected with peers drew more diagrams and had a larger gain from the midterm to final exam. Another study in quantum mechanics involved giving common problems in midterm and final exams and suggested that advanced students do not automatically reflect on their mistakes. Interviews revealed that even advanced students often focus mostly on exams rather than learning and building a robust knowledge structure. A survey was
Chabay, Ruth; Sherwood, Bruce
In the Matter & Interactions version of the calculus-based introductory physics course (http://www4.ncsu.edu/ ˜rwchabay/mi) , students write programs in VPython (http://vpython.org) to model physical systems and to calculate and visualize electric and magnetic fields. VPython is unusually easy to learn, produces navigable 3D animations as a side effect of physics computations, and supports full vector calculations. The high speed of current computers makes sophisticated numerical analysis techniques unnecessary. Students can use simple first-order Euler integration, cutting the step size until the behavior of the system no longer changes. In mechanics, iterative application of the momentum principle gives students a sense of the time-evolution character of Newton's second law which is usually missing from the standard course. In E, students calculate electric and magnetic fields numerically and display them in 3D. We are currently studying the impact of introducing computational physics into the introductory course.
Kost, Lauren; Pollock, Steven; Finkelstein, Noah
Our previous research showed that despite the use of interactive engagement techniques in the introductory physics course, the gap in performance between males and females on a mechanics conceptual learning survey persisted from pre- to post-test, at our institution. Such findings were counter to previously published work. Follow-up studies identified correlations between student performance on the conceptual learning survey and students' prior physics and math knowledge and their incoming attitudes and beliefs about physics and learning physics. The results indicate that the gender gap at our institution is predominantly associated with differences in males' and females' previous physics and math knowledge, and attitudes and beliefs. Our current work extends these results in two ways: 1) we look at the gender gap in the second semester of the introductory sequence and find results similar to those in the first semester course and 2) we identify ways in which males and females differentially experience several aspects of the introductory course.  Pollock, et al, Phys Rev: ST: PER 3, 010107.  Lorenzo, et al, Am J Phys 74, 118.  Kost, et al, PERC Proceedings 2008.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), popular for years in astronomy courses, is also an excellent topic in physics literacy courses. Space travel, relativity, scientific methodology, pseudoscience, and physics-related societal topics can all be taught within the SETI context. Fermi's question (see Kuiper and Brin, Extraterrestrial Civilization, AAPT 1989, p. 67) is especially appropriate. Enrico Fermi, speculating in 1950 on the number of technological civilizations in our galaxy, concluded that we should have been visited long ago and many times over. Thus one might ask, paraphrasing Fermi, "Where is everybody?" Fermi concluded that either interstellar travel is impossible, or is always judged not to be worth the effort, or technological civilization doesn't last long enough for it to happen. Whether one agrees with Fermi or not, the great physicist's third suggestion is a sobering perspective on the sustainability of Earth-based civilization.
Dendy, R. O.
Preface; Introduction R. O. Dendy; 1. Plasma particle dynamics R. J. Hastie; 2. Plasma kinetic theory J. A. Elliott; 3. Waves in plasmas J. P. Doughtery; 4. Magnetohydrodynamics K. I. Hopcraft; 5. Turbulence in fluids and fusion plasmas F. A. Haas; 6. Finite-dimensional dynamics and chaos T. J. Mullin; 7. Computational plasma physics J. W. Eastwood; 8. Tokomak experiments D. C. Robinson and M. R. O'Brien; 9. Magnetospheric plasmas: Part I Basic processes in the solar system D. A. Bryant; Part II Microprocesses R. L. Bingham; 10. Solar plasmas R. A. Hood; 11. Gravitational plasmas J. J. Binney; 12. Laser plasmas A. R. Bell; 13. Industrial plasmas P. C. Johnson; 14. Transport in magnetically confined plasmas T. E. Stringer; 15. Radio-frequency plasma heating R. A. Cairns; 16. Boundary plasmas G. McCracken; 17. How to build a tokomak T. N. Todd; 18. Survey of fusion plasma physics R. S. Pease; Index.
One of the intermediate goals of STEM education has been turning our students into problem solvers and critical thinkers who are equipped with better scientific analysis skills. In light of this initiative, it is imperative that we, the educators, modify the way we teach classic introductory physics topics, and in the long run all sciences, and offer students more opportunities to hone their forementioned STEM skills.
THIS SPECIAL ISSUE OF "PHYSICS TODAY" REVIEWS THE STATUS OF SECONDARY SCHOOL PHYSICS, AS WELL AS COLLEGE PHYSICS AND PHYSICAL SCIENCE. SECONDARY LEVEL PROJECTS INCLUDE PHYSICAL SCIENCE STUDY COMMITTEE PHYSICS, HARVARD PROJECT PHYSICS, THE ENGINEERING CONCEPTS CURRICULUM PROJECT, AND THE NUFFIELD PROJECT. THOSE AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL INCLUDE THE…
Clarage, James B.
Much of the mathematical reasoning employed in the typical introductory physics course can be traced to Pythagorean roots planted over two thousand years ago. Besides obvious examples involving the Pythagorean theorem, I draw attention to standard physics problems and derivations which often unknowingly rely upon the Pythagoreans' work on proportion, music, geometry, harmony, the golden ratio, and cosmology. Examples are drawn from mechanics, electricity, sound, optics, energy conservation and relativity. An awareness of the primary sources of the mathematical techniques employed in the physics classroom could especially benefit students and educators at schools which encourage integration of their various courses in history, science, philosophy, and the arts.
Hoffman, Eugene J.
Just as passing a music course from "Appreciation" on up demands at least basic proficiency in note reading and harmony, so even physics for nonscience students requires some mathematical skills. We are often frustrated, however, by students who in the midst of a beautifully deductive derivation hesitate over, say, the definition of a cosine. In an effort to hasten development of key problem-solving skills, I have added timed proficiency tests to the conventional array of learning tools, homework, quizzes, hour exams, etc.
This talk will discuss using the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) to compare student attitudes towards the study of physics of two different groups. Northern Illinois University has two levels of introductory mechanics courses, one geared towards biology majors and pre-health professionals, and one for engineering and physics majors. The course for pre-health professionals is an algebra based course, while the course for engineering and physics majors is a calculus based course. We've adapted the CLASS into a twenty question survey that measures student attitudes towards the practice of and conceptions about physics. The survey is administered as a pre and post assessment to look at student attitudes before and after their first course in physics.
Nguyen, Ngoc-Loan; Meltzer, David E.
We report the results of an investigation into physics students' understanding of vector addition, magnitude, and direction for problems presented in graphical form. A seven-item quiz, including free-response problems, was administered in all introductory general physics courses during the 2000/2001 academic year at Iowa State. Responses were obtained from 2031 students during the first week of class. We found that more than one quarter of students beginning their second semester of study in the calculus-based physics course, and more than half of those beginning the second semester of the algebra-based sequence, were unable to carry out two-dimensional vector addition. Although the total scores on the seven-item quiz were somewhat better for students in their second semester of physics in comparison to students in their first semester, many students retained significant conceptual difficulties regarding vector methods that are heavily employed throughout the physics curriculum.
Smith, Michael R.
I have taught algebra-based introductory physics for six years to liberal arts students. It was primarily a service course for students majoring in Athletic Training, Physical Therapy, Geology, Biology, and Pre-Med. The typical student was characterized by having a minimal math and problem-solving proficiency. There also was a pattern of students being predisposed to memorizing facts and formulas, and attempting to solve problems by finding the correct formula and "plugging in" numbers to get an answer. The students seemed to have a minimal ability in deductive reasoning and problem solving, starting from basic principles. It is no wonder that they entered the introductory physics service course with extreme trepidation, based upon a strongly perceived physics phobia. A standard lecture format was used for the class size of approximately 25-30 students; and an attempt was always made to engage the students through the Socratic approach, by asking leading questions during the course of the lecture. The students were relatively unprepared and couldn't participate in the class, and often responded antagonistically. They indicated they didn't want to be asked to think about an issue, but would rather just be told the facts so they could take specific notes for subsequent memorization. It was clear from the results of the open book exams given during the semester that the majority of students could not approach problem solving using deductive reasoning based on basic principles, but relied on attempting to force-fit the problem into a worked example in the text (often out of context, with illogical results). The absentee rate in the classroom was usually around 30-40%. The academic administration of my liberal arts university has the policy of formal course evaluations by the students at the end of each semester. The evaluation questionnaire appears to be primarily a measurement of the stress level of the student during the course, and the evaluation score I received
Lin, Shih-Yin; Singh, Chandralekha
It is well known that introductory physics students often have alternative conceptions that are inconsistent with established physical principles and concepts. Invoking alternative conceptions in the quantitative problem-solving process can derail the entire process. In order to help students solve quantitative problems involving strong alternative conceptions correctly, appropriate scaffolding support can be helpful. The goal of this study is to examine how different scaffolding supports involving analogical problem-solving influence introductory physics students' performance on a target quantitative problem in a situation where many students' solution process is derailed due to alternative conceptions. Three different scaffolding supports were designed and implemented in calculus-based and algebra-based introductory physics courses involving 410 students to evaluate the level of scaffolding needed to help students learn from an analogical problem that is similar in the underlying principles involved but for which the problem-solving process is not derailed by alternative conceptions. We found that for the quantitative problem involving strong alternative conceptions, simply guiding students to work through the solution of the analogical problem first was not enough to help most students discern the similarity between the two problems. However, if additional scaffolding supports that directly helped students examine and repair their knowledge elements involving alternative conceptions were provided, e.g., by guiding students to contemplate related issues and asking them to solve the targeted problem on their own first before learning from the analogical problem provided, students were more likely to discern the underlying similarities between the problems and avoid getting derailed by alternative conceptions when solving the targeted problem. We also found that some scaffolding supports were more effective in the calculus-based course than in the algebra-based
I will describe methods used at the University of Cincinnati to enhance student success in an algebra-based physics course. The first method is to use ALEKS, an adaptive online mathematics tutorial engine, before the term begins. Approximately three to four weeks before the beginning of the term, the professor in the course emails all of the students in the course informing them of the possibility of improving their math proficiency by using ALEKS. Using only a minimal reward on homework, we have achieved a 70% response rate with students spending an average of 8 hours working on their math skills before classes start. The second method is to use a flipped classroom approach. The class of 135 meets in a tiered classroom twice per week for two hours. Over the previous weekend students spend approximately 2 hours reading the book, taking short multiple choice conceptual quizzes, and viewing videos covering the material. In class, students use Learning Catalytics to work through homework problems in groups, guided by the instructor and one learning assistant. Using these interventions, we have reduced the student DWF rate (the fraction of students receiving a D or lower in the class) from an historical average of 35 to 40% to less than 20%.
Raynolds, James; Mullin, Lenore
We present an approach to computational physics in which a common formalism is used both to express the physical problem as well as to describe the underlying details of how computation is realized on arbitrary multiprocessor/memory computer architectures. This formalism is the embodiment of a generalized algebra of multi-dimensional arrays (A Mathematics of Arrays) and an efficient computational implementation is obtained through the composition of of array indices (the psi-calculus) of algorithms defined using matrices, tensors, and arrays in general. The power of this approach arises from the fact that multiple computational steps (e.g. Fourier Transform followed by convolution, etc.) can be algebraically composed and reduced to an simplified expression (i.e. Operational Normal Form), that when directly translated into computer code, can be mathematically proven to be the most efficient implementation with the least number of temporary variables, etc. This approach will be illustrated in the context of a cache-optimized FFT that outperforms or is competitive with established library routines: ESSL, FFTW, IMSL, NAG.
Mateycik, Frances Ann
This research project investigates students' development of problem solving schemata while using strategies that facilitate the process of using solved examples to assist with a new problem (case reuse). Focus group learning interviews were used to explore students' perceptions and understanding of several problem solving strategies. Individual clinical interviews were conducted and quantitative examination data were collected to assess students' conceptual understanding, knowledge organization, and problem solving performance on a variety of problem tasks. The study began with a short one-time treatment of two independent, research-based strategies chosen to facilitate case reuse. Exploration of students' perceptions and use of the strategies lead investigators to select one of the two strategies to be implemented over a full semester of focus group interviews. The strategy chosen was structure mapping. Structure maps are defined as visual representations of quantities and their associations. They were created by experts to model the appropriate mental organization of knowledge elements for a given physical concept. Students were asked to use these maps as they were comfortable while problem solving. Data obtained from this phase of our study (Phase I) offered no evidence of improved problem solving schema. The 11 contact hour study was barely sufficient time for students to become comfortable using the maps. A set of simpler strategies were selected for their more explicit facilitation of analogical reasoning, and were used together during two more semester long focus group treatments (Phase II and Phase III of this study). These strategies included the use of a step-by-step process aimed at reducing cognitive load associated with mathematical procedure, direct reflection of principles involved in a given set of problems, and the direct comparison of problem pairs designed to be void of surface similarities (similar objects or object orientations) and sharing
Cruz, Emerson; O'Shea, Brian; Schaffenberger, Werner; Wolf, Steven; Kortemeyer, Gerd
In an introductory physics sequence with a large enrollment of premedical students, traditional recitation sessions were replaced by "Tutorials in Introductory Physics," developed by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. Initially, summative test scores (as well as FCI scores) dramatically increased, but so did student…
Winter, Joshua Brian
The flipped or inverted classroom model is one in which the time and place for traditional lecture and homework are reversed. Traditional lecture is replaced by online videos assigned as homework. This frees up time in class to be spent with more student centered activities such as discussion based concept questions and group problem solving. While growing in popularity, research on the effectiveness of this format is sparse. In this quasi-experimental study, two sections of an introductory algebra-based college physics course were examined over a five week period. Each section was taught with either the traditional or flipped model and physics knowledge achieved was compared using independent samples t-tests on both the instructor's unit exam and the Mechanics Baseline Test pre/posttest normalized gain. Results indicated that there was no statistically significant difference between the flipped model and the traditional lecture format. Avenues for further research are discussed.
Ridenour, J.; Feldman, G.; Teodorescu, R.; Medsker, L.; Benmouna, N.
Developing competency in problem solving and enhancing conceptual understanding are primary objectives in introductory physics, and many techniques and tools are available to help instructors achieve them. Pedagogically, we use an easy-to-implement intervention, the ACCESS protocol, to develop and assess problem-solving skills in our SCALE-UP classroom environment for algebra-based physics. Based on our research and teaching experience, an important question has emerged: while primarily targeting improvements in problem-solving and cognitive development, is it necessary that conceptual understanding be compromised? To address this question, we gathered and analyzed information about student abilities, backgrounds, and instructional preferences. We report on our progress and give insights into matching the instructional tools to student profiles in order to achieve optimal learning in group-based active learning. The ultimate goal of our work is to integrate individual student learning needs into a pedagogy that moves students closer to expert-like status in problem solving.
Chen, Jean Chi-Jen
Physics is fundamental for science, engineering, medicine, and for understanding many phenomena encountered in people's daily lives. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between student success in college-level introductory physics courses and various educational and background characteristics. The primary variables of this study were gender, high school mathematics and science preparation, preference and perceptions of learning physics, and performance in introductory physics courses. Demographic characteristics considered were age, student grade level, parents' occupation and level of education, high school senior grade point average, and educational goals. A Survey of Learning Preference and Perceptions was developed to collect the information for this study. A total of 267 subjects enrolled in six introductory physics courses, four algebra-based and two calculus-based, participated in the study conducted during Spring Semester 2002. The findings from the algebra-based physics courses indicated that participant's educational goal, high school senior GPA, father's educational level, mother's educational level, and mother's occupation in the area of science, engineering, or computer technology were positively related to performance while participant age was negatively related. Biology preparation, mathematics preparation, and additional mathematics and science preparation in high school were also positively related to performance. The relationships between the primary variables and performance in calculus-based physics courses were limited to high school senior year GPA and high school physics preparation. Findings from all six courses indicated that participant's educational goal, high school senior GPA, father's educational level, and mother's occupation in the area of science, engineering, or computer technology, high school preparation in mathematics, biology, and the completion of additional mathematics and science courses were
Somers, William; Rooney, Frank; Ochoa, Romulo
The Wii, a video game console, is a very popular device with millions of units sold worldwide over the past two years. Although computationally it is not a powerful machine, to a physics educator its most important components can be its controllers. The Wiimote (or remote) controller contains three accelerometers, an infrared detector, and Bluetooth connectivity at a relatively low price. Thanks to available open source code, any PC with Bluetooth capability can detect the information sent out by the Wiimote. We have designed several experiments for introductory physics courses that make use of the accelerometers and Bluetooth connectivity. We have adapted the Wiimote to measure the: variable acceleration in simple harmonic motion, centripetal and tangential accelerations in circular motion, and the accelerations generated when students lift weights. We present the results of our experiments and compare them with those obtained when using motion and/or force sensors.
Teodorescu, Raluca Elena
This project describes the research on a classification of physics problems in the context of introductory physics courses. This classification, called the Taxonomy of Introductory Physics Problems (TIPP), relates physics problems to the cognitive processes required to solve them. TIPP was created for designing and clarifying educational objectives, for developing assessments that can evaluate individual component processes of the problem-solving process, and for guiding curriculum design in introductory physics courses, specifically within the context of a "thinking-skills" curriculum. TIPP relies on the following resources: (1) cognitive research findings adopted by physics education research, (2) expert-novice research discoveries acknowledged by physics education research, (3) an educational psychology taxonomy for educational objectives, and (4) various collections of physics problems created by physics education researchers or developed by textbook authors. TIPP was used in the years 2006--2008 to reform the first semester of the introductory algebra-based physics course (called Phys 11) at The George Washington University. The reform sought to transform our curriculum into a "thinking-skills" curriculum that trades "breadth for depth" by focusing on fewer topics while targeting the students' cognitive development. We employed existing research on the physics problem-solving expert-novice behavior, cognitive science and behavioral science findings, and educational psychology recommendations. Our pedagogy relies on didactic constructs such as the GW-ACCESS problem-solving protocol, learning progressions and concept maps that we have developed and implemented in our introductory physics course. These tools were designed based on TIPP. Their purpose is: (1) to help students build local and global coherent knowledge structures, (2) to develop more context-independent problem-solving abilities, (3) to gain confidence in problem solving, and (4) to establish
During the session on "Introductory College Physics Textbooks" at the 2007 Summer Meeting of the AAPT, there was a brief discussion about whether introductory physics should begin with one-dimensional motion or two-dimensional motion. Here we present the case that by starting with two-dimensional motion, we are able to introduce a considerable…
Traxler, Adrienne; Brewe, Eric
We report on seven years of attitudinal data using the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey from University Modeling Instruction (UMI) sections of introductory physics at Florida International University. University Modeling Instruction is a curricular and pedagogical transformation of introductory university physics that engages…
Lin, Shih-Yin; Henderson, Charles; Mamudi, William; Singh, Chandralekha; Yerushalmi, Edit
As part of a larger study to understand instructors' considerations regarding the learning and teaching of problem solving in an introductory physics course, we investigated beliefs of first-year graduate teaching assistants (TAs) regarding the use of example solutions in introductory physics. In particular, we examine how the goal of promoting…
Crouch, Catherine H.; Heller, Kenneth
We describe restructuring the introductory physics for life science students (IPLS) course to better support these students in using physics to understand their chosen fields. Our courses teach physics using biologically rich contexts. Specifically, we use examples in which fundamental physics contributes significantly to understanding a biological system to make explicit the value of physics to the life sciences. This requires selecting the course content to reflect the topics most relevant to biology while maintaining the fundamental disciplinary structure of physics. In addition to stressing the importance of the fundamental principles of physics, an important goal is developing students' quantitative and problem solving skills. Our guiding pedagogical framework is the cognitive apprenticeship model, in which learning occurs most effectively when students can articulate why what they are learning matters to them. In this article, we describe our courses, summarize initial assessment data, and identify needs for future research.
Pollock, Steven J.; Finkelstein, Noah D.
While it is well known which curricular practices can improve student performance on measures of conceptual understanding, the sustaining of these practices and the role of faculty members in implementing these practices are less well understood. We present a study of the hand-off of Tutorials in Introductory Physics [McDermott and Schaffer (Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2002)] from initial adopters to other instructors at the University of Colorado, including traditional faculty not involved in physics educational research. The study examines the impact of implementation of tutorials on student conceptual learning across ten first-semester, and seven second-semester courses, for 15 faculty members over 13 semesters, and includes roughly 5000 students. It is possible to demonstrate consistently high, and statistically indistinguishable, student learning gains for different faculty members; however, such results are not the norm and appear to rely on a variety of factors. Student performance varies by faculty background—faculty involved in, or informed by physics education research, consistently post higher student learning gains than less-informed faculty. Student performance in these courses also varies by curricula used—all semesters in which the research-based Tutorials and learning assistants are used have higher student learning gains than those semesters that rely on nonresearch-based materials and do not employ learning assistants.
Henderson, B. J.; Henderson, M. A.
An introductory biophysics course for science students who have previously taken two quarters of noncalculus physics is described. Material covered emphasizes the physical principles of sound, light, electricity, energy, and information. (Author/CP)
Cruz, Émerson; O'Shea, Brian; Schaffenberger, Werner; Wolf, Steven; Kortemeyer, Gerd
In an introductory physics sequence with a large enrollment of premedical students, traditional recitation sessions were replaced by Tutorials in Introductory Physics, developed by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. Initially, summative test scores (as well as FCI scores) dramatically increased, but so did student complaints and workload. Both effects decreased over time. The paper discusses issues that instructors should consider when contemplating implementation of the tutorials.
At Duke University we use several technologies in the Introductory Physics Courses for Life Sciences Majors. These tools assist the instructors in obtaining formative assessments of student understanding and provide students with feedback during each week of the semester. PreLecture and Survey assignments are delivered via the Web using the BlackBoard course management program. In addition, infrared transmitters (aka Personal Response System, PRS) have been used in classroom to poll conceptual and computational questions relating to reading assignments, to examples worked in lecture and to demonstrations that have been (or will be) done for the students. The instructor may choose to review the material or to move on to subsequent topics with greater confidence that the students are fully prepared method encouraged by the Just In Time Teaching model. On occasion, the initial response distribution is hidden in order to encourage Instruction between the students before the question is repolled. From these experiences students may see shifts in their understanding (or instructors can confirm the persistence of misconceptions!). Data obtained from the courses reveal interesting correlations between polling scores, prior AP experiences, gender and the overall grades earned in the courses.
Orear, Jay; Salpeter, E. E.
Discusses the phenomenon of formation of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes from dying stars for the purpose of providing college teachers with materials usable in the introductory physics course. (CC)
Teaching introductory physics is arguably one of the most important things that a physics department does. It is the primary way that students from other science disciplines engage with physics and it is the introduction to physics for majors. Modeling instruction is an active learning strategy for introductory physics built on the premise that science proceeds through the iterative process of model construction, development, deployment, and revision. We describe the role that participating in authentic modeling has in learning and then explore how students engage in this process in the classroom. In this presentation, we provide a theoretical background on models and modeling and describe how these theoretical elements are enacted in the introductory university physics classroom. We provide both quantitative and video data to link the development of a conceptual model to the design of the learning environment and to student outcomes. This work is supported in part by DUE #1140706.
Khoon, Koh Aik; Jalal, Azman; Daud, Abdul Razak; Abd-Shukor, Roslan; Samat, Supian; Talib, Ibrahim Abu; Othman, Mazlan; Yatim, Baharudin
Among the many changes that have taken place in physics education in recent years is the fact that physics introductory texts have undergone some drastic changes in layout, content, approach and presentation. It is a total breath of fresh air compared with the drab physics texts of yesteryear. This paper takes a closer look on the changes that…
Director (from Macromedia) is a powerful software tool for developing multimedia animations and simulations in physics. In this paper, we present some of the modules that we have developed for a conceptual physics course which will be offered on the web as well as on a LAN server. These modules, written in Lingo (the scripting language of Director), are aimed at improving students understanding of different concepts in introductory physics. Their main feature is their simplicity, clear presentation, emphasis on qualitative concepts, and most importantly, their interactivity. We will describe how these animations may be icorporated in introductory physics courses.
Watkins, Jessica Ellen
In this dissertation we examine several issues related to the retention of under-represented minority students in physics and science. In the first section, we show that in calculus-based introductory physics courses, the gender gap on the FCI is diminished through the use of interactive techniques, but in lower-level introductory courses, the gap persists, similar to reports published at other institutions. We find that under-represented racial minorities perform similar to their peers with comparable academic preparation on conceptual surveys, but their average exam grades and course grades are lower. We also examine student persistence in science majors; finding a significant relationship between pedagogy in an introductory physics course and persistence in science. In the second section, we look at student end-of-semester evaluations and find that female students rate interactive teaching methods a full point lower than their male peers. Looking more deeply at student interview data, we find that female students report more social issues related to the discussions in class and both male and female students cite feeling pressure to obtain the correct answer to clicker questions. Finally, we take a look an often-cited claim for gender differences in STEM participation: cognitive differences explain achievement differences in physics. We examine specifically the role of mental rotations in physics achievement and problem-solving, viewing mental rotations as a tool that students can use on physics problems. We first look at student survey results for lower-level introductory students, finding a low, but significant correlation between performance on a mental rotations test and performance in introductory physics courses. In contrast, we did not find a significant relationship for students in the upper-level introductory course. We also examine student problem-solving interviews to investigate the role of mental rotations on introductory problems.
For the past four years the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota has been revising its Introductory Physics Course specifically targeted to biological science and pre-medical students. The course design process includes determining the reasons that introductory physics is required by the biology faculty and determining how or if to satisfy their goals. The resulting course must substantially satisfy the goals of the biology faculty, be an introductory physics course that stresses the application of fundamental principles and relates them to complex situations typical in biology, be of interest to beginning biology students, and be teachable by ordinary physics professors. The design process for the content and the pedagogy of the course will be described as will the resulting course structure. Student performance measures for the revised course will also be given.
Teodorescu, Raluca E.; Bennhold, Cornelius; Feldman, Gerald; Medsker, Larry
This paper describes research on a classification of physics problems in the context of introductory physics courses. This classification, called the Taxonomy of Introductory Physics Problems (TIPP), relates physics problems to the cognitive processes required to solve them. TIPP was created in order to design educational objectives, to develop…
Claycomb, J. R.
Activity-based collisional analysis is developed for introductory physics and astronomy laboratory experiments. Crushable floral foam is used to investigate the physics of projectiles undergoing completely inelastic collisions with a low-density solid forming impact craters. Simple drop experiments enable determination of the average acceleration,…
Mohanty, Soumya D.; Cantu, Sergio
Commercial video games are increasingly using sophisticated physics simulations to create a more immersive experience for players. This also makes them a powerful tool for engaging students in learning physics. We provide some examples to show how commercial off-the-shelf games can be used to teach specific topics in introductory undergraduate…
Liff, Mark I.
Do all solids expand upon heating? To most people's surprise, there is a class of rather common solids, namely rubbery elastic polymers, capable of contracting upon heating1,2 while staying in the same solid phase. This seems contradictory to common sense and the physical theories of thermal behavior of ordinary solids. The physical behavior of elastic polymers continues to amaze physics and chemistry students as well as many scientists, despite the fact that it was experimentally detected in natural rubbers two centuries ago. For the following 125 years this phenomenon remained unexplained. An explanation was finally found only in the 1930s when the new science of "polymer physics" emerged. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that some elements of polymer physics can be useful in teaching introductory general physics, especially in discussing the thermal properties of solids and for introducing the concept of entropy. Initially, several simple demo/lab experiments manifesting the extraordinary thermal properties of rubbers will be discussed. A brief description of the search for an explanation of the physics underlying this behavior will follow. The discussion will include the macromolecular hypothesis of Staudinger,3 the notion of a conformational state of a macromolecule, and the idea of statistical probabilities for the end-to-end macromolecular distances.1,2,4 The latter leads directly to an explanation of the emergence of the entropic force that is responsible for contraction upon heating. These notions are shown to be easily employable for introducing the idea of entropy to a beginner.
Mohanty, Soumya D.; Cantu, Sergio
Commercial video games are increasingly using sophisticated physics simulations to create a more immersive experience for players. This also makes them a powerful tool for engaging students in learning physics. We provide some examples to show how commercial off-the-shelf games can be used to teach specific topics in introductory undergraduate physics. The examples are selected from a course taught predominantly through the medium of commercial video games.
Mason, Andrew; Singh, Chandralekha
The ability to categorize problems based upon underlying principles, rather than surface features or contexts, is considered one of several proxy predictors of expertise in problem solving. With inspiration from the classic study by Chi, Feltovich, and Glaser, we assess the distribution of expertise among introductory physics students by asking…
Permanent magnets have long been used in both traditional laboratory exercises and in inquiry-based learning activities. These pedagogical applications are typically timed to correspond to the early coverage of magnetism in the second-semester sequence of introductory physics. At the initial level the concepts relate to the magnetic field of the…
Kuczma, R. M.
Learning Activity Packages (LAP) mostly relating to the Introductory Physical Science Text are presented in this manual for use in sampling a new type of instruction. The total of 14 topics are incorporated into five units: (1) introduction to individualized learning; (2) observation versus interpretation; (3) quantity of matter; (4) introduction…
Hall, Nicholas Ron
The role of autonomy in the student experience in a large-enrollment undergraduate introductory physics course was studied from a Self-Determination Theory perspective with two studies. Study I, a correlational study, investigated whether certain aspects of the student experience correlated with how autonomy supportive (vs. controlling) students…
Benegas J.; Flores, J. Sirur
This longitudinal study reports the results of a replication of "Tutorials in Introductory Physics" in high schools of a Latin-American country. The main objective of this study was to examine the suitability of "Tutorials" for local science education reform. Conceptual learning of simple resistive electric circuits was…
Sudol, Jeffrey J.
I developed a test, hereafter the Baseline Test, to measure the extent to which students meet the expectations of a college level, algebra-based, introductory physics course with regard to prior preparation in math and science. The average Baseline Test score for a sample of N=182 undergraduate students is 0.55 ± 0.18, consistent with past efforts to make similar measurements. Positive correlation is found between Baseline Test scores and average exam scores (r=0.57, p < 0.0001, N=144). Positive correlation is also found between Baseline Test scores and Force Concept Inventory gains (r=0.45, p < 0.0001, N=141). An analysis of the complete record of student responses to each of the Baseline Test questions and the multiple choice questions on exams reveals no apparent, causal relationship between prior preparation in math and science and student performance on exams. The data suggest the presence of a hidden variable.
Investigations related to expertise in problem solving and ability to transfer learning from one context to another are important for developing strategies to help students perform more expertlike tasks. Here we analyze written responses to a pair of nonintuitive isomorphic problems given to introductory physics students and discussions with a…
If America is to achieve the science literacy that is essential to industrialized democracy, all students must study such topics as scientific methodology, pseudoscience, ozone depletion, and global warming. My large-enrollment liberal-arts physics course covers the great principles of physics along with several such philosophical and societal topics. It is easy to include the interdisciplinary context of physics in courses for non-scientists, because these courses are flexible, conceptual, and taught to students whose interests span a broad range. Students find these topics relevant and fascinating, leading to large enrollments by non-scientists even in courses labeled ''physics.'' I will discuss my approach to teaching the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI), a topic with lots of good physics and with connections to scientific methodology and pseudoscience. A textbook for this kind of course has been published, Physics: Concepts and Connections (Prentice-Hall, 1995).
Hill, C. T.; Lederman, L. M.
Modern physics is largely defined by fundamental symmetry principles and Noether's Theorem. Yet these are not taught, or rarely mentioned, to beginning students, thus missing an opportunity to reveal that the subject of physics is as lively and contemporary as molecular biology, and as beautiful as the arts. We prescribe a symmetry module to insert into the curriculum, of a week's length.
Describes a physics laboratory course which operates without written instructions and with no required experiments. Course is based upon one- or two-week topics in mechanics, heat, electromagnetism and optics with a student-designed experiment in modern physics as an extended project. (DF)
Mallmann, A. James
In the entertainment world, people usually like, and find memorable, novels, short stories, and movies with surprise endings. This suggests that classroom teachers might want to present to their students examples of surprising facts associated with principles of physics. Possible benefits of finding surprising facts about principles of physics are…
Presents a few illustrations of physics areas such as capacitors, free fall, vectors, and waves, to show that methods of presentation of specific topics, in some physics textbooks, produce in the average student the wrong impression and ignorance of important scientific facts. (GA)
Mallmann, A. James
In the entertainment world, people usually like, and find memorable, novels, short stories, and movies with surprise endings. This suggests that classroom teachers might want to present to their students examples of surprising facts associated with principles of physics. Possible benefits of finding surprising facts about principles of physics are opportunities to expand beyond traditional presentations—and, in some cases, to achieve a deeper and broader understanding of those principles. I believe, moreover, that some of the facts presented here may inspire physics teachers to produce some challenge problems for students.
Bich Ha, Nguyen
Having grown rapidly during the last two decades, and successfully synthesized the achievements of physics, chemistry, life science as well as information and computational science and technology, nanoscience and nanotechnology have emerged as interdisciplinary fields of modern science and technology with various prospective applications towards environmental protection and the sustainable development of industry, agriculture, public health etc. At the present time, there exist many textbooks, monographs and encyclopedias on nanoscience and nanotechnology. They present to readers the whole process of development from the emergence of new scientific ideas to comprehensive studies of concrete subjects. They are useful for experienced scientists in nanoscience and nanotechnology as well as related scientific disciplines. However, there are very few textbooks on nanoscience and nanotechnology for beginners—senior undergraduate and junior graduate students. Published by Garland Science in August 2011, Introductory Nanoscience: Physical and Chemical Concepts by Masaru Kuno is one of these rare textbooks. The purpose of this book is twofold. In a pedagogical manner the author presents the basic physical and chemical concepts of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Students with a background knowledge in general chemistry and semiclassical quantum physics can easily understand these concepts. On the other hand, by carefully studying the content of this textbook, readers can learn how to derive a large number of formulae and expressions which they will often use in their study as well as in their future research work. A distinguishing feature of the book is the inclusion of a large number of thought problems at the end of each chapter for demonstrating how to calculate the numerical values of almost all physical quantities involved in the theoretical and experimental studies of all subjects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. The author has successfully achieved both of the
Kohl, Patrick B.; Kuo, H. Vincent
Prior work has characterized the gender gaps present in college-level introductory physics courses. Such work has also shown that research-based interactive engagement techniques can reduce or eliminate these gender gaps. In this paper, we study the gender gaps (and lack thereof) in the introductory calculus-based electricity and magnetism course at the Colorado School of Mines. We present eight semesters' worth of data, totaling 2577 students, with four semesters preceding a transition to Studio physics, and four following. We examine gender gaps in course grades, DFW (D grade, fail, or withdrawal) rates, and normalized gains on the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM), and consider factors such as student ACT scores and grades in prior math classes. We find little or no gap in male/female course grades and DFW rates, but substantial gaps in CSEM gains that are reduced somewhat by the transition to Studio physics.
Kost-Smith, Lauren Elizabeth
The underrepresentation and underperformance of females in physics has been well documented and has long concerned policy-makers, educators, and the physics community. In this thesis, we focus on gender disparities in the first- and second-semester introductory, calculus-based physics courses at the University of Colorado. Success in these courses is critical for future study and careers in physics (and other sciences). Using data gathered from roughly 10,000 undergraduate students, we identify and model gender differences in the introductory physics courses in three areas: student performance, retention, and psychological factors. We observe gender differences on several measures in the introductory physics courses: females are less likely to take a high school physics course than males and have lower standardized mathematics test scores; males outscore females on both pre- and post-course conceptual physics surveys and in-class exams; and males have more expert-like attitudes and beliefs about physics than females. These background differences of males and females account for 60% to 70% of the gender gap that we observe on a post-course survey of conceptual physics understanding. In analyzing underlying psychological factors of learning, we find that female students report lower self-confidence related to succeeding in the introductory courses (self-efficacy) and are less likely to report seeing themselves as a "physics person". Students' self-efficacy beliefs are significant predictors of their performance, even when measures of physics and mathematics background are controlled, and account for an additional 10% of the gender gap. Informed by results from these studies, we implemented and tested a psychological, self-affirmation intervention aimed at enhancing female students' performance in Physics 1. Self-affirmation reduced the gender gap in performance on both in-class exams and the post-course conceptual physics survey. Further, the benefit of the self
Rigden, John S.
Explains individualization of a physics course in terms of organization, testing, and philosophy. Organization of laboratory and lecture is focused on two topics, classical mechanics and relativity theory. The testing consists of quantitative and qualitative questions. (DS)
Dickinson, Deborah L.
Introductory physics laboratory activities were examined for clarity, purpose, and level of student engagement. Input from physics faculty, graduate teaching assistants, and enrolled students was used to identify areas in need of revision. Modifications were made to one laboratory experience with the goals of engaging students, alignment with 21st century skills, American Association of Physics Teachers best practices and goals for physics labs, and understanding graphs and their use in and out of the context of science. Additionally, a list of ideas with which to modify other laboratory activities in the manual was also created.
Presents selected environmental references with comparatively detailed descriptions for the purpose of helping high school and college physics teachers in selecting materials for their course. The topics include thermal pollution, space heating and cooling, atmospheric temperature distribution, radiation balance of the earth, sound and noises, and…
Merrill, John R.
This supplementary text material is meant to suggest ways in which the computer can increase students' intuitive understanding of fields and waves. The first way allows the student to produce a number of examples of the physics discussed in the text. For example, more complicated field and potential maps, or intensity patterns, can be drawn from…
The Laplace equation has applications in several fields of physics, and problems involving this equation serve as paradigms for boundary value problems. In the case of the Laplace equation in a disc there is a well-known explicit formula for the solution: Poisson's integral. We show how one can derive this formula, and in addition two equivalent…
Kost, Lauren E.; Pollock, Steven J.; Finkelstein, Noah D.
Previous research [S. J. Pollock , Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 1 (2007)] showed that despite the use of interactive engagement techniques, the gap in performance between males and females on a conceptual learning survey persisted from pretest to post-test at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Such findings were counter to previously published work [M. Lorenzo , Am. J. Phys. 74, 118 (2006)]. This study begins by identifying a variety of other gender differences. There is a small but significant difference in the course grades of males and females. Males and females have significantly different prior understandings of physics and mathematics. Females are less likely to take high school physics than males, although they are equally likely to take high school calculus. Males and females also differ in their incoming attitudes and beliefs about physics. This collection of background factors is analyzed to determine the extent to which each factor correlates with performance on a conceptual post-test and with gender. Binned by quintiles, we observe that males and females with similar pretest scores do not have significantly different post-test scores (p>0.2) . The post-test data are then modeled using two regression models (multiple regression and logistic regression) to estimate the gender gap in post-test scores after controlling for these important prior factors. These prior factors account for about 70% of the observed gender gap. The results indicate that the gender gap exists in interactive physics classes at our institution but is largely associated with differences in previous physics and math knowledge and incoming attitudes and beliefs.
Mochrie, S. G. J.
Since 2010, our physics department has offered a re-imagined calculus-based introductory physics sequence for the life sciences. These courses include a selection of biologically and medically relevant topics that we believe are more meaningful to undergraduate premedical and biological science students than those found in a traditional course. In this paper, we highlight new aspects of the first-semester course, and present a comparison of student evaluations of this course versus a more traditional one. We also present the effect on student perception of the relevance of physics to biology and medicine after having taken this course.
Corpuz, Edgar D.; Corpuz, Ma. Aileen A.; Rosalez, Rolando
A web-based interaction system was used in algebra-based and calculus-based physics classes to enhance students' classroom interaction. The interactive teaching approach primarily incorporated elements of Mazur's Peer Instruction and Interactive Lecture Demonstration. In our implementation, students used personal digital assistants (PDAs) to interact with their instructor during lecture and classroom demonstration. In this paper, we document the perceptions and attitudes of algebra-based and calculus-based physics students towards the interactive teaching approach and likewise present data on how this approach affected students' performance on the Force Concept Inventory (FCI).
Mylott, Elliot; Kutschera, Ellynne; Dunlap, Justin C.; Christensen, Warren; Widenhorn, Ralf
We will describe a one-quarter pilot algebra-based introductory physics course for pre-health and life science majors. The course features videos with biomedical experts and cogent biomedically inspired physics content. The materials were used in a flipped classroom as well as an all-online environment where students interacted with multimedia materials online and prior to engaging in classroom activities. Pre-lecture questions on both the medical content covered in the video media and the physics concepts in the written material were designed to engage students and probe their understanding of physics. The course featured group discussion and peer-lead instruction. Following in-class instruction, students engaged with homework assignments which explore the connections of physics and the medical field in a quantitative manner. Course surveys showed a positive response by the vast majority of students. Students largely indicated that the course helped them to make a connection between physics and the biomedical field. The biomedical focus and different course format were seen as an improvement to previous traditional physics instruction.
Schoepf, David C.
Many introductory physics texts introduce the statistical basis for the definition of entropy in addition to the Clausius definition, ΔS=q/T. We use a model based on equally spaced energy levels to present a way that the statistical definition of entropy can be developed at the introductory level. In addition to motivating the statistical definition of entropy, we also develop statistical arguments to answer the following questions: (i) Why does a system approach a state of maximum number of microstates? (ii) What is the equilibrium distribution of particles? (iii) What is the statistical basis of temperature? (iv) What is the statistical basis for the direction of spontaneous energy transfer? Finally, a correspondence between the statistical and the classical Clausius definitions of entropy is made.
McNairy, William W.
This talk will cover present and past applications of teaching technologies to the Introductory Physics classroom. I will review student evaluations of various online homework systems including the University of Texas Homework System, WebAssign, Brownstone EDU and Mastering Physics. Use of online homework has varied according to the strengths and weaknesses of each platform. Additionally, I will present evaluations of classroom polling using PRS IR polling devices. The polling has provided formative feedback for lectures, demonstrations, and development of conceptual understanding by students. Finally, I will comment on the use of the BlackBoard online course system for delivery of course content and end-of-semester surveys.
Shakov, Khazhgery; Shakov, Zalimgery
Making the material presented interesting and exciting for the students has always been one of the main challenges in teaching introductory physics to students who have little or no background in physics (e.g. K-12 or undergraduate college). Many of the traditional teaching strategies consider physical systems (real or fictional) where the ``level of distraction'' is intentionally minimized or eliminated for the sake of better clarity. While it certainly allows a student to focus on important principles, it often leads to an impression that physics (and science in general) mostly operates with ``artificial'' systems that are not immediately relevant to everyday life. One of the ways to address this problem is to incorporate different forms of media that would ``bring physics to life''. We discuss how one can use fragments of popular movies to enhance students' interest in the subject.
Gilbert, John; Bellis, Matt; Cummings, John
Siena College recently completed construction of the Stewart's Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Center (SAInt Center) which includes both a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and an atomic force microscope (AFM). The goal of this project is to design laboratory exercises for introductory physics courses that make use of this equipment. Early involvement with the SAInt center aims to increase undergraduate lab skills and expand research possibilities. These lab exercises are tested on select students and evaluated as to their effectiveness in contributing to the learning goals.The current status of this work is presented here.
Milner-Bolotin, Marina M.
The poster will present a few of low tech and low cost, but highly interactive and fun lecture demonstrations which can be successfully implemented in a small as well as in a large introductory physics courses. The advantage of these mini experiments is that being cheap and easily prepared these demos can become small take home projects which the students can share with their friends and families. One of these demonstrations is a modified reaction time experiment using a ruler cut out of paper and paper clips; the second one uses a small spring, a string and a weight (or a ball on a rubber band) to demonstrate the difference between weight and apparent weight; the third one is a simple modification of a Greek Waiter Demo using paper coffee cups and a string and the last one demonstrates production of sound waves in a tube using bubble tea straws. These small lecture demonstrations can make a big difference and will help every physics instructor make his or her introductory physics classes more meaningful, fun and engaging.
McKinnon, Mark Lee
Cognitive research has indicated that the difference between males and females is negligible. Paradoxically, in traditionally-taught college level introductory physics courses, males have outperformed females. UC Davis' Physics 7A (the first class of a three-quarter Introduction to Physics sequence for Life-Science students), however, counters this trend since females perform similarly to males. The gender-based performance difference within the other two quarters (Physics 7B & 7C) of the radically restructured, active-learning physics sequence still echo the traditionally-taught courses. In one experiment, I modified the laboratory activity instructions of the Physics 7C course to encourage further group interaction. These modifications did not affect the gender-based performance difference. In a later experiment, I compared students' performance on different forms of assessment for certain physics concepts during the Physics 7C course. Over 500 students took weekly quizzes at different times. The students were given different quiz questions on the same topics. Several quiz questions seemed to favor males while others were more gender equitable. I highlighted comparisons between a few pairs of questions that assessed students' understanding of the same physical concept. Males tended to perform better in responding to questions that seemed to require spatial visualization. Questions that required greater understanding of the physical concept or scientific model were more gender neutral.
Over the past 30 years, physics education research has guided the development of instructional strategies that can significantly enhance students' functional understanding of concepts in introductory physics. Recently, attention has shifted to instructional goals that, while widely shared by teachers of physics, are often more implicit than explicit in our courses. These goals involve the expectations and attitudes that students have about what it means to learn and understand physics, together with the behaviors and actions students think they should engage in to accomplish this learning. Research has shown that these ``hidden'' elements of the curriculum are remarkably resistant to instruction. In fact, traditional physics courses tend to produce movement away from expert-like behaviors. At Western Washington University, we are exploring ways of promoting metacognition, an aspect of the hidden curriculum that involves the conscious monitoring of one's own thinking and learning. We have found that making this reflective thinking an explicit part of the course may not be enough: adequate framing and scaffolding may be necessary for students to meaningfully engage in metacognition. We have thus taken the basic approach of developing metacognition, like conceptual understanding, through guided inquiry. During our teaching experiments, we have collected written and video data, with twin goals of guiding iterative modifications to the instruction as well as contributing to the knowledge base about student metacognition in introductory physics. This talk will provide examples of metacognition activities from course assignments and labs, and will present written data to assess the effectiveness of instruction and to illustrate specific modes of students' reflective thinking.
Evrard, August E.; Mills, Michael; Winn, David; Jones, Kathryn; Tritz, Jared; McKay, Timothy A.
We introduce Problem Roulette (PR), a web-based study service at the University of Michigan that offers random-within-topic access to a large library of past exam problems in introductory physics courses. Built on public-private cloud infrastructure, PR served nearly 1000 students during Fall 2012 term, delivering more than 60,000 problem pages. The service complements that of commercial publishing houses by offering problems authored by local professors and by explicitly aligning topics with exam content. We describe the service architecture, including reporting and analytical capabilities, and present an initial evaluation of the impact of its use. Among roughly 500 students studying electromagnetism, we find that the 229 students who worked fifty or more problems over the term outperformed their complement by 0.40 grade points (on a 4.0 scale). This improvement partly reflects a selection bias that academically stronger students used the service more frequently. Adjusting for this selection bias, we find a grade point improvement of 0.22, significantly above the random noise level of 0.04. The simple message to students is that working five or more additional problems per week can lead to a quarter-letter grade improvement in introductory physics. Student comments emphasize the importance of randomness in helping them to synthesize concepts. The PR source code is publicly available.
Traxler, Adrienne; Brewe, Eric
We report on seven years of attitudinal data using the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey from University Modeling Instruction (UMI) sections of introductory physics at Florida International University. University Modeling Instruction is a curricular and pedagogical transformation of introductory university physics that engages students in building and testing conceptual models in an integrated lab and lecture learning environment. This work expands upon previous studies that reported consistently positive attitude shifts in UMI courses; here, we disaggregate the data by gender and ethnicity to look for any disparities in the pattern of favorable shifts. We find that women and students from statistically underrepresented ethnic groups have gains that are comparable to those of men and students from well-represented ethnic groups on this attitudinal measure, and that this result holds even when interaction effects of gender and ethnicity are included. We conclude with suggestions for future work in UMI courses and for attitudinal equity investigations generally. We encourage researchers to expand their scope beyond simple performance gaps when considering equity concerns, and to avoid relying on a single measure to evaluate student success. Finally, we conjecture that students' social and academic networks are one means by which attitudinal and efficacy beliefs about the course are propagated.
Lin, Shih-Yin; Henderson, Charles; Mamudi, William; Singh, Chandralekha; Yerushalmi, Edit
As part of a larger study to understand instructors’ considerations regarding the learning and teaching of problem solving in an introductory physics course, we investigated beliefs of first-year graduate teaching assistants (TAs) regarding the use of example solutions in introductory physics. In particular, we examine how the goal of promoting expertlike problem solving is manifested in the considerations of graduate TAs’ choices of example solutions. Twenty-four first-year graduate TAs were asked to discuss their goals for presenting example solutions to students. They were also provided with different example solutions and asked to discuss their preferences for prominent solution features. TAs’ awareness, preferences, and actual practices related to solution features were examined in light of recommendations from the literature for the modeling of expertlike problem-solving approaches. The study concludes that the goal of helping students develop an expertlike problem-solving approach underlies many TAs’ considerations for the use of example solutions. TAs, however, do not notice and do not use many features described in the research literature as supportive of this goal. A possible explanation for this gap between their belief and practices is that these features conflict with another powerful set of values concerned with keeping students engaged, setting adequate standards, as well as pragmatic considerations such as time requirements and the assignment of grades.
Milner-Bolotin, Marina M.; Kotlicki, A.; Rieger, G.; Bates, F.; Moll, R.; McPhee, K.; Nashon, S.
We describe Interactive Lecture Experiments (ILE), which build on Interactive Lecture Demonstrations proposed by Sokoloff and Thornton (2004) and extends it by providing students with the opportunity to analyze experiments demonstrated in the lecture outside of the classroom. Real time experimental data is collected, using Logger Pro combined with the digital video technology. This data is uploaded to the Internet and made available to the students for further analysis. Student learning is assessed in the following lecture using conceptual questions (clickers). The goal of this project is to use ILE to make large lectures more interactive and promote student interest in science, critical thinking and data analysis skills. We report on the systematic study conducted using the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey, Force Concept Inventory, open-ended physics problems and focus group interviews to determine the impact of ILE on student academic achievement, motivation and attitudes towards physics. Three sections of students (750 students) experienced four ILE experiments. The surveys were administered twice and academic results for students who experienced the ILE for a particular topic were compared to the students, from a different section, who did not complete the ILE for that topic. Additional qualitative data on students’ attitudes was collected using open ended survey questions and interviews. We will present preliminary conclusions about the role of ILEs as an effective pedagogy in large introductory physics courses. Sokoloff, D.R. and R.K. Thornton (2004). Interactive Lecture Demonstrations: Active Learning in Introductory Physics, J.Wiley & Sons, INC. Interactive Lecture Experiments: http://www.physics.ubc.ca/ year1lab/p100/LectureLabs/lectureLabs.html
Grennell, Drew; Boudreaux, Andrew
In the Western Washington University physics department, a project is underway to develop research-based laboratory curriculum for the introductory calculus-based course. Instructional goals not only include supporting students' conceptual understanding and reasoning ability, but also providing students with opportunities to engage in metacognition. For the latter, our approach has been to scaffold reflective thinking with guided questions. Specific instructional strategies include analysis of alternate reasoning presented in fictitious dialogues and comparison of students' initial ideas with their lab group's final, consensus understanding. Assessment of student metacognition includes pre- and post- course data from selected questions on the CLASS survey, analysis of written lab worksheets, and student opinion surveys. CLASS results are similar to a traditional physics course and analysis of lab sheets show that students struggle to engage in a metacognitive process. Future directions include video studies, as well as use of additional written assessments adapted from educational psychology.
The attrition of females studying physics after high school has been a continuing concern for the physics education community. If females are well prepared, feel confident, and do well in introductory college physics, they may be inclined to study physics further. This quantitative study uses HLM to identify factors from high school physics preparation (content, pedagogy, and assessment) and the affective domain that predict female and male performance in introductory college physics. The study includes controls for student demographic and academic background characteristics, and the final dataset consists of 1973 surveys from 54 introductory college physics classes. The results highlight high school physics and affective experiences that differentially predict female and male performance. These experiences include: learning requirements, computer graphing/analysis, long written problems, everyday world examples, community projects cumulative tests/quizzes, father's encouragement, family's belief that science leads to a better career, and the length of time students believe that high school physics would help in university physics. There were also experiences that similarly predict female and male performance. The results paint a dynamic picture of the factors from high school physics and the affective domain that influence the future physics performance of females and males. The implication is that there are many aspects to the teaching of physics in high school that, although widely used and thought to be effective, need reform in their implementation in order to be fully beneficial to females and/or males in college.
University Physics II is an introductory calculus-based electromagnetism and optics course, (UPII). Our goal in revising the course was to improve the level of student learning, confidence, and enjoyment of science, while maintaining the resource level common to large institutions (teaching assistants in labs, large lectures, etc.) The program is successful, based on all indicators. Student confidence is up, particularly women are as confident as the men at the end of the course, with a strong correlation between confidence and performance. The students who complete the class with a C or better go on to complete a degree in SMET. This is by far the majority, as we make it very hard not to learn the material. Students given a 50-minute closed-book problem-solving test from a 1990 class (ave=53.8%) finished in 35 minutes with an average of 69.2%. They outperformed previous classes where the concepts had been specifically addressed by 10-18% on conceptual multiple-choice questions. Our students have a higher retention to degree than the rest of the university. Second semester introductory physics is often where the number of physics majors declines. Yet, in UPII we recruit more students into physics than are lost in the preceding semesters. Graduation rates went from four or less to 12 or more concurrent with our first UPII students graduating. Enrollment continues to increase. Our method involves leading the student from concrete "hands-on" examples to conceptual understanding through group discussion. Quantitative experimental results provide verification. Concepts are related to everyday phenomena familiar to the student. Students are taught to reason in a structured manner about both conceptual and quantitative problems. Cooperative learning, found to improve retention of female and minority students, is emphasized. Important features and implementation of the course will be discussed.
Huberth, Madeline; Chen, Patricia; Tritz, Jared; McKay, Timothy A.
Large introductory courses are at a disadvantage in providing personalized guidance and advice for students during the semester. We introduce E2Coach (an Expert Electronic Coaching system), which allows instructors to personalize their communication with thousands of students. We describe the E2Coach system, the nature of the personalized support it provides, and the features of the students who did (and did not) opt-in to using it during the first three terms of its use in four introductory physics courses at the University of Michigan. Defining a ‘better-than-expected’ measure of performance, we compare outcomes for students who used E2Coach to those who did not. We found that moderate and high E2Coach usage was associated with improved performance. This performance boost was prominent among high users, who improved by 0.18 letter grades on average when compared to nonusers with similar incoming GPAs. This improvement in performance was comparable across both genders. E2Coach represents one way to use technology to personalize education at scale, contributing to the move towards individualized learning that is becoming more attainable in the 21st century. PMID:26352403
Laws, P. W.
Early in his career Robert Millikan experimented with a laboratory-based method of teaching introductory physics that bears close resemblance to Workshop Physics.® In this talk, key elements of Workshop Physics are summarized. Some Workshop Physics activities are described which involve apparati that are used for rapid observations of conceptual aspects of physical phenomena as well as for equation verification experiments. Challenges are discussed that must be faced if recently developed activity-based approaches to teaching based on the outcomes of physics education research are to provide a foundation for a major paradigm shift in physics teaching.
Starr, Julian; Sobczak, Robert; Iqbal, Zohaib; Ochoa, Romulo
The Wii, a video game console by Nintendo, utilizes several different controllers, such as the Wii remote (Wiimote) and the balance board, for game-playing. The balance board was introduced in early 2008. It contains four strain gauges and has Bluetooth connectivity at a relatively low price. Thanks to available open source code, such as GlovePie, any PC with Bluetooth capability can detect the information sent out by the balance board. Based on the ease with which the forces measured by each strain gauge can be obtained, we have designed several experiments for introductory physics courses that make use of this device. We present experiments to measure the forces generated when students lift their arms with and without added weights, distribution of forces on an extended object when weights are repositioned, and other normal forces cases. The results of our experiments are compared with those predicted by Newtonian mechanics. )
Gröber, Sebastian; Klein, Pascal; Kuhn, Jochen
Introductory mechanics physics courses at the transition from school to university are a challenge for students. They are faced with an abrupt and necessary increase of theoretical content and requirements on their conceptual understanding of phyiscs. In order to support this transition we replaced part of the mandatory weekly theory-based paper-and-pencil problems with video analysis problems of equal content and level of difficulty. Video-based problems (VBP) are a new problem format for teaching physics from a linked sequence of theoretical and video-based experimental tasks. Experimental tasks are related to the well-known concept of video motion analysis. This introduction of an experimental part in recitations allows the establishment of theory-experiment interplay as well as connections between physical content and context fields such as nature, technique, everyday life and applied physics by conducting model-and context-related experiments. Furthermore, laws and formulas as predominantly representative forms are extended by the use of diagrams and vectors. In this paper we give general reasons for this approach, describe the structure and added values of VBP, and show that they cover a relevant part of mechanics courses at university. Emphasis is put on theory-experiment interplay as a structural added value of VBP to promote students' construction of knowledge and conceptual understanding.
Milner-Bolotin, Marina; Antimirova, Tetyana; Noack, Andrea; Petrov, Anna
This paper examines the results of the repeated administration of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) in a large introductory physics course at a midsize, metropolitan Canadian university. We compare the results to those obtained previously in comparable courses at the University of British Columbia (Canada) and the…
Hall, Nicholas; Webb, David
The role of autonomy in the student experience in a large-enrollment undergraduate introductory physics course was studied from a self-determination theory perspective. A correlational study investigated whether certain aspects of the student experience correlated with how autonomy supportive (versus controlling) students perceived their instructors to be. An autonomy-supportive instructor acknowledges students' perspectives and feelings and provides students with information and opportunities for choice while minimizing external pressures (e.g., incentives or deadlines). It was found that the degree to which students perceived their instructors as autonomy supportive was positively correlated with student interest and enjoyment in learning physics (β =0.31***) and negatively correlated with student anxiety about taking physics (β =-0.23**). It was also positively correlated with how autonomous (versus controlled) students' reasons for studying physics became over the duration of the course (i.e., studying physics more because they wanted to versus had to; β =0.24***). This change in autonomous reasons for studying physics was in turn positively correlated with student performance in the course (β =0.17*). Additionally, the degree to which students perceived their instructors as autonomy supportive was directly correlated with performance for those students entering the course with relatively autonomous reasons for studying physics (β =0.25**). In summary, students who perceived their instructors as more autonomy supportive tended to have a more favorable motivational, affective, and performance experience in the course. The findings of the present study are consistent with experimental studies in other contexts that argue for autonomy-supportive instructor behaviors as the cause of a more favorable student experience.
Hazari, Zahra Sana
The attrition of females studying physics after high school is a concern to the science education community. Most undergraduate science programs require introductory physics coursework. Thus, success in introductory physics is necessary for students to progress to higher levels of science study. Success also influences attitudes; if females are well-prepared, feel confident, and do well in introductory physics, they may be inclined to study physics further. This quantitative study using multilevel modeling focused on determining factors from high school physics preparation (content, pedagogy, and assessment) and the affective domain that influenced female and male performance in introductory university physics. The study controlled for some university/course level characteristics as well as student demographic and academic background characteristics. The data consisted of 1973 surveys from 54 introductory physics courses within 35 universities across the US. The results highlight high school physics and affective experiences that differentially influenced female and male performance. These experiences include: learning requirements, computer graphing/analysis, long written problems, everyday world examples, community projects, cumulative tests/quizzes, father's encouragement, family's belief that science leads to a better career, and the length of time students believed that high school physics would help in university physics. There were also experiences that had a similar influence on female and male performance. Positively related to performance were: covering fewer topics for longer periods of time, the history of physics as a recurring topic, physics-related videos, and test/quiz questions that involved calculations and/or were drawn from standardized tests. Negatively related to performance were: student-designed projects, reading/discussing labs the day before performing them, microcomputer based laboratories, discussion after demonstrations, and family
Ilie, Carolina; Lee, Kevin
We discuss collaborative problem solving computer-based recitation style. The course is designed by Lee , and the idea was proposed before by Christian, Belloni and Titus [2,3]. The students find the problems on a web-page containing simulations (physlets) and they write the solutions on an accompanying worksheet after discussing it with a classmate. Physlets have the advantage of being much more like real-world problems than textbook problems. We also compare two protocols for web-based instruction using simulations in an introductory physics class . The inquiry protocol allowed students to control input parameters while the worked example protocol did not. We will discuss which of the two methods is more efficient in relation to Scientific Discovery Learning and Cognitive Load Theory. 1. Lee, Kevin M., Nicoll, Gayle and Brooks, Dave W. (2004). ``A Comparison of Inquiry and Worked Example Web-Based Instruction Using Physlets'', Journal of Science Education and Technology 13, No. 1: 81-88. 2. Christian, W., and Belloni, M. (2001). Physlets: Teaching Physics With Interactive Curricular Material, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. 3. Christian,W., and Titus,A. (1998). ``Developing web-based curricula using Java Physlets.'' Computers in Physics 12: 227--232.
Close, Eleanor; Donnelly, David; Close, Hunter
This semester we are running a pilot Learning Assistant (LA) program in one section of our introductory calculus-based mechanics course. The LA model of course transformation was developed at the University of Colorado (http://laprogram.colorado.edu/). In our current implementation, five undergraduate physics majors are assisting with tutorial instruction in the lecture section once a week (using primarily Tutorials in Introductory Physics); in addition, most weekly laboratory sections begin with a tutorial. Both LAs and laboratory TAs attend tutorial preparation sessions prior to instruction each week. In this talk we briefly describe the current program, including implementation issues; give preliminary notes on the experiences of the new LAs; and discuss future plans for an expanded LA program. Overall our plan is to improve the experience of being an undergraduate physics student in our department by improving student understanding of physics concepts and by including students as legitimate participants in the mission of the department.
We report on several simulation programs (available through http://phys.snu.ac.kr/howto/ or http://phya.snu.ac.kr/˜kclee/howto/) which can be used to teach the statistical foundations of thermal physics in introductory college physics courses. These programs are simple applications of a technique for generating random configurations of many dice with a fixed total value. By merely simulating dice throwing we can demonstrate all the important principles of classical thermodynamics.
Demaree, Dedra; Gubernatis, Cat; Hanzlik, Jessica; Franklin, Scott; Hermsen, Lisa; Aubrecht, Gordon
Members of the Physics and English departments at The Ohio State University and Rochester Institute of Technology are involved in an ongoing study addressing issues related to writing activities in the physics classroom. In summer quarter, 2005, the introductory calculus-based physics lab students wrote essays, some sections with and some without explicit writing instruction. We found a student's essay grade for English correlated strongly with that assigned for physics. In addition, we have studied the location and type of comments made by both physics and English instructors on individual student essays, and the statements students made within their essays. The results from the analysis of our data will be presented.
Mason, Andrew J.; Singh, Chandralekha
Students’ attitudes and approaches to problem solving in physics can greatly impact their actual problem solving practices and also influence their motivation to learn and ultimately the development of expertise. We developed and validated an attitudes and approaches to problem solving (AAPS) survey and administered it to students in the introductory physics courses in a typical large research university in the US. Here, we discuss the development and validation of the survey and analysis of the student responses to the survey questions in introductory physics courses. The introductory physics students’ responses to the survey questions were also compared with those of physics faculty members and physics PhD students. We find that introductory students are in general less expert-like than the physics faculty members and PhD students. Moreover, on some AAPS survey questions, the responses of students and faculty have unexpected trends. Those trends were interpreted via individual interviews, which helped clarify reasons for those survey responses.
Knutson, Paul Aanond
The purpose of this study was to determine the ways in which cooperative problem solving in physics instructional laboratories influenced the students' ability to provide qualitative responses to problems. The literature shows that problem solving involves both qualitative and quantitative skills. Qualitative skills are important because those skills are the foundation for the quantitative aspects of problem solving. (Chi, et al., 1981). The literature also indicates that cooperative problem solving should enhance the students' performance. As a practical matter surveys of departments that require introductory physics classes expect their students to have general qualitative problem solving skills. The students in this study were asked to solve problem(s) before coming to a lab session and then cooperatively assess whether or not their answers were correct by conducting a laboratory activity for which they had to plan the procedure and obtain the necessary results. TA's were expected to provide instruction under a cognitive apprenticeship model. The results showed that the cooperative problem solving laboratories had almost no impact on the students' problem solving skills as measured from the start of a two hour lab session to the end of the lab session...The reason for this may have been that students did not have enough experience in the solving of different kinds of problems in the two domains of Newton's second Law and gravitation to overcome their misconceptions and become competent. Another possibility was that the TA's did not follow the cognitive apprenticeship model as consistently as might have been needed.
We describe the development and implementation of a college-level introductory physics (mechanics) course and laboratory that is suited for both on-campus and on-line environments. The course emphasizes a ``Your World is Your Lab'' approach whereby students first examine and capture on video (using cellphones) motion in their immediate surroundings, and then use free, open-source software both to extract data from the video and to apply physics principles to build models that describe, predict, and visualize the observations. Each student reports findings by creating a video lab report and posting it online; these video lab reports are then distributed to the rest of the class for peer review. In this talk, we will discuss the student and instructor experiences in courses offered to three distinct audiences in different venues: (1) a Massively Open On-line Course (MOOC) for off-campus participants, (2) a flipped/blended course for on-campus students, and, most recently, (3) a fully-online course for off-campus students.
The Physics Source (http://www.physicssource.org/), a component of ComPADRE, was designed to help faculty teaching introductory physics courses identify and use high quality relevant curriculum and pedagogical resources in their teaching. Faculty can use to Physics Source to find, share, and collaborate on building high-quality, effective teaching and learning materials. Users can also organize the content they like, and submit their own resources for inclusion in the library. Among the content included in the library are simulations, lab activities, classroom demonstrations, videos, information on some teaching techniques, and physics education research articles.
Wood, Anna K.; Galloway, Ross K.; Donnelly, Robyn; Hardy, Judy
Interactive engagement activities are increasingly common in undergraduate physics teaching. As research efforts move beyond simply showing that interactive engagement pedagogies work towards developing an understanding of how they lead to improved learning outcomes, a detailed analysis of the way in which these activities are used in practice is needed. Our aim in this paper is to present a characterization of the type and duration of interactions, as experienced by students, that took place during two introductory physics courses (1A and 1B) at a university in the United Kingdom. Through this work, a simple framework for analyzing lectures—the framework for interactive learning in lectures (FILL), which focuses on student interactions (with the lecturer, with each other, and with the material) is proposed. The pedagogical approach is based on Peer Instruction (PI) and both courses are taught by the same lecturer. We find lecture activities can be categorized into three types: interactive (25%), vicarious interactive (20%) (involving questions to and from the lecturer), and noninteractive (55%). As expected, the majority of both interactive and vicarious interactive activities took place during PI. However, the way that interactive activities were used during non-PI sections of the lecture varied significantly between the two courses. Differences were also found in the average time spent on lecturer-student interactions (28% for 1A and 12% for 1B), although not on student-student interactions (12% and 12%) or on individual learning (10% and 7%). These results are explored in detail and the implications for future research are discussed.
Benegas, J.; Flores, J. Sirur
This longitudinal study reports the results of a replication of Tutorials in Introductory Physics in high schools of a Latin-American country. The main objective of this study was to examine the suitability of Tutorials for local science education reform. Conceptual learning of simple resistive electric circuits was determined by the application of the single-response multiple-choice test "Determining and Interpreting Resistive Electric Circuits Concepts Test" (DIRECT) to high school classes taught with Tutorials and traditional instruction. The study included state and privately run schools of different socioeconomic profiles, without formal laboratory space and equipment, in classes of mixed-gender and female-only students, taught by novice and experienced instructors. Results systematically show that student learning is significantly higher in the Tutorials classes compared with traditional teaching for all of the studied conditions. The results also show that long-term learning (one year after instruction) in the Tutorials classes is highly satisfactory, very similar to the performance of the samples of college students used to develop the test DIRECT. On the contrary, students following traditional instruction returned one year after instruction to the poor performance (<20%) shown before instruction, a result compatible with the very low level of conceptual knowledge of basic physics recently determined by a systematic study of first-year students attending seven universities in Spain and four Latin-American countries. Some replication and adaptation problems and difficulties of this experience are noted, as well as recommendations for successful use of Tutorials in high schools of similar educational systems.
Hall, Nicholas Ron
The role of autonomy in the student experience in a large-enrollment undergraduate introductory physics course was studied from a Self-Determination Theory perspective with two studies. Study I, a correlational study, investigated whether certain aspects of the student experience correlated with how autonomy supportive (vs. controlling) students perceived their instructors to be. An autonomy supportive instructor acknowledges students' perspectives, feelings, and perceptions and provides students with information and opportunities for choice, while minimizing external pressures. It was found that the degree to which students perceived their instructors as autonomy supportive was positively correlated with student interest and enjoyment in learning physics (beta=0.31***) and negatively correlated with student anxiety about taking physics (beta=-0.23**). It was also positively correlated with how autonomous (vs. controlled) students' reasons for studying physics became over the duration of the course (i.e., studying physics more because they wanted to vs. had to; beta=0.24***). This change in autonomous reasons for studying physics was in turn positively correlated with student performance in the course (beta=0.17*). Additionally, the degree to which students perceived their instructors as autonomy supportive was directly correlated with performance for those students entering the course with relatively autonomous reasons for studying physics (beta=0.25**). In summary, students who perceived their instructors as more autonomy supportive tended to have a more favorable experience in the course. If greater autonomy support was in fact the cause of a more favorable student experience, as suggested by Self-determination Theory and experimental studies in other contexts, these results would have implications for instruction and instructor professional development in similar contexts. I discuss these implications. Study II, an experimental study, investigated the effect
Savage, Lauren Michelle Williams
The introductory physics mechanics course at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has a history of relatively high DFW rates. In 2011, the course was redesigned from the traditional lecture format to the inverted classroom format (flipped). This format inverts the classroom by introducing material in a video assigned as homework while the instructor conducts problem solving activities and guides discussions during the regular meetings. This format focuses on student-centered learning and is more interactive and engaging. To evaluate the effectiveness of the new method, final exam data over the past 10 years was mined and the pass rates examined. A normalization condition was developed to evaluate semesters equally. The two teaching methods were compared using a grade distribution across multiple semesters. Students in the inverted class outperformed those in the traditional class: "A"s increased by 22% and "B"s increased by 38%. The final exam pass rate increased by 12% under the inverted classroom approach. The same analysis was used to compare the written and online final exam formats. Surprisingly, no students scored "A"s on the online final. However, the percent of "B"s increased by 136%. Combining documented best practices from a literature review with personal observations of student performance and attitudes from first hand classroom experience as a teaching assistant in both teaching methods, reasons are given to support the continued use of the inverted classroom approach as well as the online final. Finally, specific recommendations are given to improve the course structure where weaknesses have been identified.
Sadler, Philip M.; Tai, Robert H.
Examines the extent to which a high school physics course prepares students for college physics success. In this study of 1,933 introductory college physics students, demographic and schooling factors account for a large fraction of the variation in college physics grades at 18 colleges and universities from around the nation. (Author/SAH)
Redish, Edward F.; Wilson, Jack M.
Since 1983, the Maryland University Project in Physics and Educational Technology (M.U.P.P.E.T.) has been investigating the implication of including student programming in an introductory physics course for physics majors. Many significant changes can result. One can rearrange some content to be more physically appropriate, include more realistic…
Interactive engagement (IE) strategies can be helpful for students learning introductory physics with small group recitations. Less is known about their impact for large lecture-based courses. This study examined student learning and views of physics in a large enrollment course that included IE but no small-group recitation. The questions addressed were: (a) What do students learn about physics and how does this compare to reports for traditional courses?, (b) How do students' views of physics change and how does this compare to reports for traditional courses?, and (c) Which instructional strategies contribute to student outcomes? Data included pre-post FCI scores, classroom examinations during the term, pre-post CLASS scores, and student work, interviews, and open-ended surveys. Findings include a FCI average normalized gain of 0.32, which is high for students with low pre-test score (30% for this group) and instructors new to IE methods. Students' views of physics remained relatively unchanged, which is promising given the typical decline for student views. And instructional strategies as a set, not individual strategies, impacted student outcomes. Findings support the recommendation to adopt IE methods in introductory physics classes, particularly when pre-tests are low.
van der Veen, Janet Krause
In a recent editorial in Physics Today (July, 2006, p. 10) the ability of physicists to "imagine new realities" was correlated with what have been traditionally considered non-scientific qualities of imagination and creativity, which are usually associated with fine arts. In view of the current developments in physics of the 21st Century, including the searches for cosmic dark energy and evidence from the Large Hadron Collider which, it is hoped, will verify or refute the proposals of String Theory, the importance of developing creativity and imagination through education is gaining recognition. Two questions are addressed by this study: First, How can we bring the sense of aesthetics and creativity, which are important in the practice of physics, into the teaching and learning of physics at the introductory college level, without sacrificing the mathematical rigor which is necessary for proper understanding of physics? Second, How can we provide access to physics for a diverse population of students which includes physics majors, arts majors, and future teachers? An interdisciplinary curriculum which begins with teaching math as a language of nature, and utilizes arts to help visualize the connections between mathematics and the physical universe, may provide answers to these questions. In this dissertation I describe in detail the case study of the eleven students - seven physics majors and four arts majors - who participated in an experimental course, Symmetry and Aesthetics in Introductory Physics, in Winter Quarter, 2007, at UCSB's College of Creative Studies. The very positive results of this experiment suggest that this model deserves further testing, and could provide an entry into the study of physics for physics majors, liberal arts majors, future teachers, and as a foundation for media arts and technology programs.
Salehzadeh Einabad, Omid
Introductory physics courses often serve as gatekeepers for many scientific and engineering programs and, increasingly, colleges are relying on large, lecture formats for these courses. Many students, however, leave having learned very little physics and with poor views of the subject. In interactive engagement (IE), classroom activities encourage students to engage with each other and with physics concepts and to be actively involved in their own learning. These methods have been shown to be effective in introductory physics classes with small group recitations. This study examined student learning and views of physics in a large enrollment course that included IE methods with no separate, small-group recitations. In this study, a large, lecture-based course included activities that had students explaining their reasoning both verbally and in writing, revise their ideas about physics concepts, and apply their reasoning to various problems. The questions addressed were: (a) What do students learn about physics concepts and how does student learning in this course compare to that reported in the literature for students in a traditional course?, (b) Do students' views of physics change and how do students' views of physics compare to that reported in the literature for students in a traditional course?, and (c) Which of the instructional strategies contribute to student learning in this course? Data included: pre-post administration of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), classroom exams during the term, pre-post administration of the Colorado Learning Attitudes About Science Survey (CLASS), and student work, interviews, and open-ended surveys. The average normalized gain (=0.32) on the FCI falls within the medium-gain range as reported in the physics education literature, even though the average pre-test score was very low (30%) and this was the instructor's first implementation of IE methods. Students' views of physics remained relatively unchanged by instruction
Stewart, John; Ballard, Shawn
This study examined the written work of students in the introductory calculus-based electricity and magnetism course at the University of Arkansas. The students' solutions to hourly exams were divided into a small set of countable features organized into three major categories, mathematics, language, and graphics. Each category was further divided…
Piccioni, R. G.
Too often, students in introductory courses are left with the impression that Einstein's special theory of relativity comes into play only when the relative speed of two objects is an appreciable fraction of the speed of light ("c"). In fact, relativistic length contraction, along with Coulomb's law, accounts quantitatively for the force on a…
Robertson, William C.
Describes an introductory laboratory format (used for 12 years at Colorado College) that involves students in the design and exploration phases of experiments. The laboratory features include choices of experiments; clearly explained goals; student selection of methods; wise equipment use; check-out procedures with instructor questions; and no…
Perry, Bradley; Miller, Charles
Describes a new, unified approach to introductory physics based on the conservation laws. classical and quantum physics are presented together as different levels of a unified and consistent description of the world. This approach has been used for the last 3 years as the first course in general physics for science and engineering students at…
Yerushalmi, Edit; Cohen, Elisheva; Heller, Kenneth; Heller, Patricia; Henderson, Charles
This study investigates how the beliefs and values of physics faculty influence their choice of physics problems for their students in an introductory physics course. The study identifies the goals these instructors have for their students, the problem features they believe facilitate those goals, and how those features correspond to problems they…
Forrest, Doug; Whalen, Mary Battershell
Students entering physics courses in high school have seen graphs for years in math and science classes, but often do not have a deep understanding of the physical meaning of the graphs. This introductory activity is designed to allow students to collect data for a real world or physical situation (the height versus volume of water held in…
Physics is a critical foundation for today's life sciences and medicine. However, the physics content and ways of thinking identified by life scientists as most important for their fields are often not taught, or underemphasized, in traditional introductory physics courses. Furthermore, such courses rarely give students practice using physics to understand living systems in a substantial way. Consequently, students are unlikely to recognize the value of physics to their chosen fields, or to develop facility in applying physics to biological systems. At Swarthmore, as at several other institutions engaged in reforming this course, we have reorganized the introductory course for life science students around touchstone biological examples, in which fundamental physics contributes significantly to understanding biological phenomena or research techniques, in order to make explicit the value of physics to the life sciences. We have also focused on the physics topics and approaches most relevant to biology while seeking to develop rigorous qualitative reasoning and quantitative problem solving skills, using established pedagogical best practices. Each unit is motivated by and culminates with students analyzing one or more touchstone examples. For example, in the second semester we emphasize electric potential and potential difference more than electric field, and start from students' typically superficial understanding of the cell membrane potential and of electrical interactions in biochemistry to help them develop a more sophisticated understanding of electric forces, field, and potential, including in the salt water environment of life. Other second semester touchstones include optics of vision and microscopes, circuit models for neural signaling, and magnetotactic bacteria. When possible, we have adapted existing research-based curricular materials to support these examples. This talk will describe the design and development process for this course, give examples of
Macabebe, E. Q. B.; Culaba, I. B.; Maquiling, J. T.
The Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE) developed by R.K. Thornton and D. R. Sokoloff was utilized to evaluate the conceptual understanding of Newton's Laws of Motion. The test was administered to 100 freshman university students enrolled in introductory physics courses. The aim is to find out the conceptual understanding of the students prior to university level instruction. Results show that the Aristotelian notion prevails despite having taken physics in their senior year in high school. This study emphasizes the importance of training high school physics teachers and the significance of a change in the teaching techniques for university level introductory physics.
Wolf, Steven Frederick
Since it was first published 30 years ago, Chi et al.'s seminal paper on expert and novice categorization of introductory problems led to a plethora of follow-up studies within and outside of the area of physics [Chi et al. Cognitive Science 5, 121 -- 152 (1981)]. These studies frequently encompass "card-sorting" exercises whereby the participants group problems. The study firmly established the paradigm that novices categorize physics problems by "surface features" (e.g. "incline," "pendulum," "projectile motion,"... ), while experts use "deep structure" (e.g. "energy conservation," "Newton 2,"... ). While this technique certainly allows insights into problem solving approaches, simple descriptive statistics more often than not fail to find significant differences between experts and novices. In most experiments, the clean-cut outcome of the original study cannot be reproduced. Given the widespread implications of the original study, the frequent failure to reproduce its findings warrants a closer look. We developed a less subjective statistical analysis method for the card sorting outcome and studied how the "successful" outcome of the experiment depends on the choice of the original card set. Thus, in a first step, we are moving beyond descriptive statistics, and develop a novel microscopic approach that takes into account the individual identity of the cards and uses graph theory and models to visualize, analyze, and interpret problem categorization experiments. These graphs are compared macroscopically, using standard graph theoretic statistics, and microscopically, using a distance metric that we have developed. This macroscopic sorting behavior is described using our Cognitive Categorization Model. The microscopic comparison allows us to visualize our sorters using Principal Components Analysis and compare the expert sorters to the novice sorters as a group. In the second step, we ask the question: Which properties of problems are most important in problem
Calder, Austin Michael
Physics Education Research (PER) has shown us that when students have opportunities to make sense of concepts they tend to remember them better and can apply them more appropriately to new situations. PER has also revealed that an interactive, cooperative, small group environment is more conducive to achieving this than traditional lecture and recitation sections. It is useful to consider the aims of reformed instruction from the point of view of the graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) in physics, who are facilitating the instruction. The data in this dissertation comes from audio-recordings of GTAs teaching in an algebra-based introductory course; I develop a rubric for assessing the teaching practices of the GTAs which separates teaching into five categories according to the reformed practices present. The rubric and technique developed here could be used as a diagnostic for GTAs new to a reformed classroom. I also conducted surveys of the GTA participants, as well as semi-structured interviews to gain more information about the attitudes and perspectives toward reformed physics instruction. Results from this work include: (1) A diagnostic tool for teaching improvement and (2) a detailed understanding of the GTA facilitators' teaching practices in the reformed physics laboratory.
Mason, Andrew; Singh, Chandralekha
The ability to categorize problems based upon underlying principles, rather than contexts, is considered a hallmark of expertise in physics problem solving. With inspiration from a classic study by Chi, Feltovich, and Glaser, we compared the categorization of 25 introductory mechanics problems based upon similarity of solution by students in large calculus-based introductory courses with physics faculty and PhD students. Here, we summarize the study and suggest that a categorization task, especially when conducted with students working with peers in small groups, can be an effective pedagogical tool to help students in introductory physics courses learn to discern the underlying similarity between problems with diverse contexts but the same underlying physics principles.
Nowadays, data acquisition software and sensors are being widely used in introductory physics laboratories. This allows the student to spend more time exploring the data that is collected by the computer hence focusing more on the physical concept. Very often, a faculty is faced with the challenge of updating or introducing a microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) at his or her institution. This article will provide a list of experiments and equipment needed to convert about half of the traditional labs on a 1-year introductory physics lab into MBLs. PMID:22346229
Sahin, Esin; Yagbasan, Rahmi
This study aims at diagnosing which subjects pre-service physics teachers have difficulty understanding in introductory physics courses and what accounts for these difficulties. A questionnaire consisting of two qualitative questions was used to collect data for this study. The questionnaire was administered to 101 pre-service physics teachers who…
Lin, Shih-Yin; Singh, Chandralekha
It is well known that introductory physics students often have alternative conceptions that are inconsistent with established physical principles and concepts. Invoking alternative conceptions in the quantitative problem-solving process can derail the entire process. In order to help students solve quantitative problems involving strong…
O'Shea, Brian; Terry, Laura; Benenson, Walter
We present outcomes from curricular changes made to an introductory calculus-based physics course whose audience is primarily life sciences majors, the majority of whom plan to pursue postbaccalaureate studies in medical and scientific fields. During the 2011-2012 academic year, we implemented a Physics of the Life Sciences curriculum centered on…
Sokoloff, David R.; Laws, Priscilla W.; Thornton, Ronald K.
Computer-based tools that enable students to collect, display and analyse data in real time have catalysed the design of a laboratory curriculum that allows students to master a coherent body of physics concepts while acquiring traditional laboratory skills. This paper describes "RealTime Physics", a sequenced introductory laboratory curriculum…
Spoeri, William G., III
This study applied thematic approaches to the study of introductory physics. Symmetry principles and conservation laws were chosen to serve as themes for the development of a unit on elementary particles used by students who were enrolled in a physics sequence for nonscience majors. The unit was independently evaluated by teachers of general…
Calculus is used across many physics topics from introductory to upper-division level college courses. The concepts of differentiation and integration are important tools for solving real world problems. Using calculus or any mathematical tool in physics is much more complex than the straightforward application of the equations and algorithms that…
Brewe, Eric; Sawtelle, Vashti; Kramer, Laird H.; O'Brien, George E.; Rodriguez, Idaykis; Pamela, Priscilla
We report the results of a five year evaluation of the reform of introductory calculus-based physics by implementation of Modeling Instruction (MI) at Florida International University (FIU), a Hispanic-serving institution. MI is described in the context of FIU's overall effort to enhance student participation in physics and science broadly. Our…
Burko, Lior M.
Introductory calculus-based physics textbooks state that electromagnetic waves are transverse and list many of their properties, but most such textbooks do not bring forth arguments why this is so. Both physical and theoretical arguments are at a level appropriate for students of courses based on such books, and could be readily used by…
Roberts, Jacqueline R.; Hagedorn, Eric; Dillenburg, Paul; Patrick, Michael; Herman, Timothy
This article reports the results of a recent study to evaluate the usefulness of physical models of molecular structures as a new tool with which to teach concepts of molecular structure and function. Of seven different learning tools used by students in this introductory biochemistry class, the use of the physical models in a laboratory was rated…
Sawtelle, Vashti; Brewe, Eric; Kramer, Laird H.
The quantitative results of Sources of Self-Efficacy in Science Courses-Physics (SOSESC-P) are presented as a logistic regression predicting the passing of students in introductory Physics with Calculus I, overall as well as disaggregated by gender. Self-efficacy as a theory to explain human behavior change [Bandura  "Psychological Review,…
Mansyur, Jusman; Darsikin
This paper describes an instructional design for introductory physics that integrates previous research results of physics problem-solving and the use of external representation into direct instruction (DI). The research is a part of research in obtaining an established instructional design to support mental-modeling ability. By integrating with…
Baily, Charles; Finkelstein, Noah D.
Most introductory quantum physics instructors would agree that transitioning students from classical to quantum thinking is an important learning goal, but may disagree on whether or how this can be accomplished. Although (and perhaps because) physicists have long debated the physical interpretation of quantum theory, many instructors choose to…
Ekwue, Eleazer U.
The practical nature of physics and its reliance on mathematical presentations and problem solving pose a challenge toward presentation of the course in an online environment for effective learning experience. Most first-time introductory college physics students fail to grasp the basic concepts of the course and the problem solving skills if the…
Wrinkle, Cheryl Schaefer; Manivannan, Mani K.
The K-W-L method of teaching is a simple method that actively engages students in their own learning. It has been used with kindergarten and elementary grades to teach other subjects. The authors have successfully used it to teach physics at the college level. In their introductory physics labs, the K-W-L method helped students think about what…
Robertson, Harold Frederick, Jr.
This study, conducted at Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in Philadelphia, was designed to determine if a significant difference existed between ninth-grade students experienced in Introductory Physical Science and ninth-grade students experienced in conventional General Science in ability to manipulate basic physics laboratory equipment,…
Crowder, Juliette; Martinez, Aramis; Lopez, Ramon
Research shows that the traditional lecture-and-lab format is not the most effective way to introduce students to calculus-based physics. Accordingly, the curriculum for UTEP's introductory calculus based physics courses was revised for the 2000-01 academic year to include techniques that have proven to improve students' understanding of physics. This paper will focus on student attitudes and retention rates.
da Rocha, Fabio Saraiva; Fajardo, Fabio; Grisolia, Maricarmen; Benegas, Julio; Tchitnga, Robert; Laws, Priscilla
Being able to facilitate effective hands-on laboratory experiences in introductory physics courses is a challenging task, even when contemporary laboratory facilities, equipment, and new technologies for data collection and analysis are available. At institutions without adequate resources, especially those in developing countries, we have found…
Two methods of data analysis are compared: spreadsheet software and a statistics software suite. Their use is compared analysing data collected in three selected experiments taken from an introductory physics laboratory, which include a linear dependence, a nonlinear dependence and a histogram. The merits of each method are compared. (Contains 7…
Hall, Nicholas; Webb, David
The role of autonomy in the student experience in a large-enrollment undergraduate introductory physics course was studied from a self-determination theory perspective. A correlational study investigated whether certain aspects of the student experience correlated with how autonomy supportive (versus controlling) students perceived their…
Kohnle, Antje; Brown, C. Tom A.; Rae, Cameron F.; Sinclair, Bruce D.
This article describes problem-based labs and analytical and computational project work we have been running at the University of St Andrews in an introductory physics course since 2008/2009. We have found the choice of topics, scaffolding of the process, timing in the year and facilitator guidance decisive for the success of these activities.…
Mason, Andrew; Singh, Chandralekha
The ability to categorize problems based upon underlying principles, rather than contexts, is considered a hallmark of expertise in physics problem solving. With inspiration from a classic study by Chi, Feltovich, and Glaser, we compared the categorization of 25 introductory mechanics problems based upon similarity of solution by students in large…
O'Malley, Patrick J.; Agger, Jonathan R.; Anderson, Michael W.
An analysis is presented of the experience and lessons learned of running a MOOC in introductory physical chemistry. The course was unique in allowing students to conduct experimental measurements using a virtual laboratory constructed using video and simulations. A breakdown of the student background and motivation for taking the course is…
Slezak, C.; Koenig, K. M.; Endorf, R. J.; Braun, G. A.
This paper examines the educational impact of the implementation of the tutorial activity "Changes in Energy and Momentum" from "The Tutorials in Introductory Physics" in five different instructional settings. These settings include (1) a completely computer-based learning environment and (2) use of cooperative learning groups with varying levels…
Li, Lie-Ming; Li, Bin; Luo, Ying
We modified the Just-in-Time Teaching approach and developed a dual safeguard web-based interactive (DGWI) teaching system for an introductory physics course. The system consists of four instructional components that improve student learning by including warm-up assignments and online homework. Student and instructor activities involve activities…
Leinonen, Risto; Rasanen, Esa; Asikainen, Mervi; Hirvonen, Pekka E.
This study concentrates on analysing university students' pre-knowledge of thermal physics. The students' understanding of the basic concepts and of the adiabatic compression of an ideal gas was studied at the start of an introductory level course. A total of 48 students participated in a paper-and-pencil test, and analysis of the responses…
Castelli, Darla M.; Woods, Amelia M.; Lambdin, Dolly; Hall, Tina; Webster, Colin
The intent of teacher education is to develop a person's skill, knowledge and ability to foster learning in pre-K-12 education settings. Preparation in this field of education carries added complexities, in that physical educators must address psychomotor, cognitive and affective goals. An introductory course for undergraduates should overview the…
Singh, Chandralekha; Haileselassie, Daniel
Science teaching and learning can be made both engaging and student-centered using pedagogical, computer-based learning tools. We have developed self-paced interactive problem-solving tutorials for introductory physics. These tutorials can provide guidance and support for a variety of problem-solving techniques, as well as opportunities for…
Two methods of data analysis are compared: spreadsheet software and a statistics software suite. Their use is compared analysing data collected in three selected experiments taken from an introductory physics laboratory, which include a linear dependence, a nonlinear dependence and a histogram. The merits of each method are compared.
Purvis-Roberts, Kathleen L.; Edwalds-Gilbert, Gretchen; Landsberg, Adam S.; Copp, Newton; Ulsh, Lisa; Drew, David E.
A new interdisciplinary, introductory science course was offered for the first time during the 2007-2008 school year. The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the idea of working at the intersections of biology, chemistry, and physics and to recognize interconnections between the disciplines. Interdisciplinary laboratories are a key…
Los Angeles Unified School District, CA. Office of Secondary Instruction.
Introductory Physical and Earth Science 8AB, a required course in the Los Angeles Unified School District, covers skills and concepts related to matter, energy, space science, weather, and oceanography with particular emphasis on the investigative approach. This instructional outline contains teacher guidelines and course content information.…
Yoder, G.; Cook, J.
Interactive lecture demonstrations (ILDs) are a powerful tool designed to help instructors bring state-of-the-art teaching pedagogies into the college-level introductory physics classroom. ILDs have been shown to improve students' conceptual understanding, and many examples have been created and published by Sokoloff and Thornton. We have used the…
Greenslade, Thomas B., Jr.
This article is about a late 19th-century teacher of secondary school physics. I was originally interested in the apparatus that he sold. This led me to the physics books that he wrote, and these took me to his unusual ideas about ways to use laboratory time to introduce students to the phenomena of physics. More than 100 years later educational…
Greenslade, Thomas B.
This article is about a late 19th-century teacher of secondary school physics. I was originally interested in the apparatus that he sold. This led me to the physics books that he wrote, and these took me to his unusual ideas about ways to use laboratory time to introduce students to the phenomena of physics. More than 100 years later educational ideas have now come full circle, and it is time to bring Gage and his texts and ideas to 21st-century physics teachers.
Most physics instructors are motivated by a genuine interest in their subject area and in using physics to understand real-world phenomena. While many premedical students may share these interests, most are motivated by fulfilling their degree requirements and gaining admittance into medical school. To achieve this latter goal, they need excellent…
Scaife, Thomas M.
Instructors of physics often use examples to illustrate new or complex physical concepts to students. For any particular concept, there are an infinite number of examples, thus presenting instructors with a difficult question whenever they wish to use one in their teaching: which example will most effectively illustrate the concept so that student…
Frank, Brian; Goertzen, Renee Michelle; Hutchison, Paul
Each time students engage in a classroom activity, they make tacit interpretations (about the nature of those activities) that influence how they reason and ultimately what they learn. For example, a student answering a physics question on a worksheet might draw on her everyday thinking to help make sense of the physics, or she might not even…
Holmes, N. G.; Bonn, D. A.
In a recent report, the American Association of Physics Teachers has developed an updated set of recommendations for curriculum of undergraduate physics labs. This document focuses on six major themes: constructing knowledge, modeling, designing experiments, developing technical and practical laboratory skills, analyzing and visualizing data, and…
Frank, Brian; Goertzen, Renee Michelle; Hutchison, Paul
Each time students engage in a classroom activity, they make tacit interpretations (about the nature of those activities) that influence how they reason and ultimately what they learn. For example, a student answering a physics question on a worksheet might draw on her everyday thinking to help make sense of the physics, or she might not even consider everyday thinking if its usefulness was not readily apparent. For many physics instructors, the reconciliation of everyday thinking and formal physics knowledge is part of what it means to fully understand physics. Despite this, many students do not see reconciling these two things as what they are supposed to do in the classroom. Often we see students whose interpretation of physics class causes them to "turn off" their everyday thinking. In this article, we argue for the importance of attending closely to whether students are reconciling their everyday and formal physics thinking and introduce "obvious" questions as a tool that can help instructors assess whether such reconciliation is taking place.
Pollock, Steven J.; Finkelstein, Noah
Introductory calculus-based physics classes at the University of Colorado Boulder were significantly transformed beginning in 2004. They now regularly include: interactive engagement using clickers in large lecture settings, Tutorials in Introductory Physics with use of undergraduate Learning Assistants in recitation sections, and a staffed help-room setting where students work on personalized CAPA homework. We compile and summarize conceptual (FMCE and BEMA) pre- and post-data from over 9,000 unique students after 16 semesters of both Physics 1 and 2. Within a single institution with stable pre-test scores, we reproduce results of Hake's 1998 study that demonstrate the positive impacts of interactive engagement on student performance. We link the degree of faculty's use of interactive engagement techniques and their experience levels on student outcomes, and argue for the role of such systematic data collection in sustained course and institutional transformations.
Roberts, Jacqueline R; Hagedorn, Eric; Dillenburg, Paul; Patrick, Michael; Herman, Timothy
This article reports the results of a recent study to evaluate the usefulness of physical models of molecular structures as a new tool with which to teach concepts of molecular structure and function. Of seven different learning tools used by students in this introductory biochemistry class, the use of the physical models in a laboratory was rated as most useful. These results suggest that physical models can play an important role in capturing the interest of students in the subject of molecular structure and function. These physical models often stimulate more sophisticated questions in the minds of students, which can then be more appropriately explored using computer visualization tools. PMID:21638554
For many decades now there has been an ongoing debate about the way and extent to which physics ought to be popularized by appealing to a student's every day experience. Part of this debate has focused on how textbooks, a major factor shaping students' education, ought to be written and presented. I examine the background, passages, and problems of two examples drawn from the special genre of ``Household Physics'' textbooks which were published largely between 1910 and 1940. The pedagogy of applying or relating physics to the everyday experience engenders values defining how and by whom science is to be applied. These books are particularly evocative, as well, of the extent to which gender can be tied to differing everyday experiences and the consequences therefore of using experiential examples. Using popular science textbooks can alienate students by drawing an implicit division between the reader and the practicing scientist.
Multiple research projects have been undertaken as part of an ongoing study to develop methods to do quantitative assessment of writing to learn within physics. The ability to make use of writing to learn at first glance appears limited in large-enrollment courses due to the time-intensive nature of essay writing and grading. However, effective ways to implement writing are quite possible. One study that will be discussed required students to do textbook summary writing in introductory physics in the 2007 spring semester of the ``Foundation Physics Course'' at the University of Cape Town. This course is a component of the special access program which contains mostly second language English speakers. Another use of writing will be reported that is currently being used in the introductory physics course at Oregon State University as a way to enhance problem solving. This project is also aimed at scaffolding students toward goals in our upper division courses. This talk will report on some of what we know about writing to learn, how we are working to improve ways to study it quantitatively, and how we are incorporating some aspects of it in accessible ways in large-enrollment introductory courses.
DiLisi, Gregory A.; Rarick, Richard A.
In this paper we develop materials to address student interest in the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. We discuss the physical characteristics of tsunamis and some of the specific data regarding the 2004 event. Finally, we create an easy-to-make tsunami tank to run simulations in the classroom. The simulations exhibit three dramatic…
Partensky, Michael B.
The circle of Apollonius is named after the ancient geometrician Apollonius of Perga. This beautiful geometric construct can be helpful when solving some general problems of geometry and mathematical physics, optics, and electricity. Here we discuss two of its applications: localizing an object in space and calculating electric fields. First, we…
Knutson, Paul Aanond
The purpose of this study was to determine the ways in which cooperative problem solving in physics instructional laboratories influenced the students' ability to provide qualitative responses to problems. The literature shows that problem solving involves both qualitative and quantitative skills. Qualitative skills are important because those…
Wood, Anna K.; Galloway, Ross K.; Donnelly, Robyn; Hardy, Judy
Interactive engagement activities are increasingly common in undergraduate physics teaching. As research efforts move beyond simply showing that interactive engagement pedagogies work towards developing an understanding of "how" they lead to improved learning outcomes, a detailed analysis of the way in which these activities are used in…
Xu Ryan, Qing
The ability to solve problems in a variety of contexts is becoming increasingly important in our rapidly changing technological society. Problem-solving is a complex process that is important for everyday life and crucial for learning physics. Although there is a great deal of effort to improve student problem solving skills throughout the…
Holmes, N. G.; Bonn, D. A.
In a recent report, the American Association of Physics Teachers has developed an updated set of recommendations for curriculum of undergraduate physics labs. This document focuses on six major themes: constructing knowledge, modeling, designing experiments, developing technical and practical laboratory skills, analyzing and visualizing data, and communicating physics. These themes all tie together as a set of practical skills in scientific measurement, analysis, and experimentation. In addition to teaching students how to use these skills, it is important for students to know when to use them so that they can use them autonomously. This requires, especially in the case of analytical skills, high levels of inquiry behaviors to reflect on data and iterate measurements, which students rarely do in lab experiments. Often, they perform lab experiments in a plug-and-chug frame, procedurally completing each activity with little to no sensemaking. An emphasis on obtaining true theoretical values or agreement on individual measurements also reinforces inauthentic behaviors such as retroactively inflating measurement uncertainties. This paper aims to offer a relatively simple pedagogical framework for engaging students authentically in experimentation and inquiry in physics labs.
Scaife, Thomas M.
Instructors of physics often use examples to illustrate new or complex physical concepts to students. For any particular concept, there are an infinite number of examples, thus presenting instructors with a difficult question whenever they wish to use one in their teaching: which example will most effectively illustrate the concept so that student learning is maximized? The choice is typically made by an intuitive assumption about which exact example will result in the most lucid illustration and the greatest student improvement. By questioning 583 students in four experiments, I examined a more principled approach to example selection. By controlling the manner in which physical dimensions vary, the parameter space of each concept can be divided into a discrete number of example categories. The effects of training with members of each of category was explored in two different physical contexts: projectile motion and torque. In the first context, students were shown two trajectories and asked to determine which represented the longer time of flight. Height, range, and time of flight were the physical dimensions that were used to categorize the examples. In the second context, students were shown a balance-scale with loads of differing masses placed at differing positions along either side of the balance-arm. Mass, lever-arm length, and torque were the physical dimensions used to categorize these examples. For both contexts, examples were chosen so that one or two independent dimensions were varied. After receiving training with examples from specific categories, students were tested with questions from all question categories. Successful training or instruction can be measured either as producing correct, expert-like behavior (as observed through answers to the questions) or as explicitly instilling an understanding of the underlying rule that governs a physical phenomenon. A student's behavior might not be consistent with their explicit rule, so following the
Brewe, Eric; Sawtelle, Vashti; Kramer, Laird H.; O'Brien, George E.; Rodriguez, Idaykis; Pamelá, Priscilla
We report the results of a five year evaluation of the reform of introductory calculus-based physics by implementation of Modeling Instruction (MI) at Florida International University (FIU), a Hispanic-serving institution. MI is described in the context of FIU’s overall effort to enhance student participation in physics and science broadly. Our analysis of MI from a “participationist” perspective on learning identifies aspects of MI including conceptually based instruction, culturally sensitive instruction, and cooperative group learning, which are consistent with research on supporting equitable learning and participation by students historically under-represented in physics (i.e., Black, Hispanic, women). This study uses markers of conceptual understanding as measured by the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) and odds of success as measured by the ratio of students completing introductory physics and earning a passing grade (i.e., C- or better) by students historically under-represented in physics to reflect equity and participation in introductory physics. FCI pre and post scores for students in MI are compared with lecture-format taught students. Modeling Instruction students outperform students taught in lecture-format classes on post instruction FCI (61.9% vs 47.9%, p<0.001 ), where these benefits are seen across both ethnic and gender comparisons. In addition, we report that the odds of success in MI are 6.73 times greater than in lecture instruction. Both odds of success and FCI scores within Modeling Instruction are further disaggregated by ethnicity and by gender to address the question of equity within the treatment. The results of this disaggregation indicate that although ethnically under-represented students enter with lower overall conceptual understanding scores, the gap is not widened during introductory physics but instead is maintained, and the odds of success for under-represented students is not different from majority students. Women
Kost, Lauren E.; Pollock, Steven J.; Finkelstein, Noah D.
We previously showed[l] that despite teaching with interactive engagement techniques, the gap in performance between males and females on conceptual learning surveys persisted from pre- to posttest, at our institution. Such findings were counter to previously published work. Our current work analyzes factors that may influence the observed gender gap in our courses. Posttest conceptual assessment data are modeled using both multiple regression and logistic regression analyses to estimate the gender gap in posttest scores after controlling for background factors that vary by gender. We find that at our institution the gender gap persists in interactive physics classes, but is largely due to differences in physics and math preparation and incoming attitudes and beliefs.
Williamson, Kathryn; Prather, Edward E.; Willoughby, Shannon
The study described here extends the applicability of the Newtonian Gravity Concept Inventory (NGCI) to college algebra-based physics classes, beyond the general education astronomy courses for which it was originally developed. The four conceptual domains probed by the NGCI (Directionality, Force Law, Independence of Other Forces, and Threshold) are well suited for investigating students' reasoning about gravity in both populations, making the NGCI a highly versatile instrument. Classical test theory statistical analysis with physics student responses pre-instruction (N = 1,392) and post-instruction (N = 929) from eight colleges and universities across the United States indicate that the NGCI is composed of items with appropriate difficulty and discrimination and is reliable for this population. Also, expert review and student interviews support the NGCI's validity for the physics population. Emergent similarities and differences in how physics students reason about gravity compared to astronomy students are discussed, as well as future directions for analyzing the instrument's item parameters across both populations.
Aurora, Tarlok S.
Mobile devices such as an IPad, tablet computers and smartphones offer an opportunity to collect information to facilitate physics teaching and learning. The data collected with built-in sensors, such as a video camera, may be analyzed on the mobile device itself or on a desktop computer. In this work, first, the circular motion of a steel ball rolling in a cereal bowl was analyzed to show that it consisted of two simple harmonic motions, in perpendicular directions. Secondly, motion of two balls-one dropped vertically down, and the other one launched as a projectile - was analyzed. Data was analyzed with Logger Pro software, and value of g was determined graphically. Details of the work, its limitations and additional examples will be described. The material so obtained may be used as a demonstration, in a classroom, to clarify physics concepts. In a school, where students are required to have such portable devices, one may assign such activities as homework, to enhance student engagement in learning physics. The author is thankful to USciences for the IPad; and Rich Cosgriff, Phyllis Blumberg and Elia Eschenazi for useful discussions.
Bihari, James; White, Arthur
Pre and posttests were given over a three year period to students in an introductory university physics course, a two-quarter, hands-on, laboratory-based, science literacy course with a focus on energy. Attitude items on the tests related to student anxiety and efficacy, discovery, relevance, enjoyment, and interest. Knowledge items on the tests related to course subject matter. Quantitative analysis was used to study relationships between attitude variables, age, gender, subject matter knowledge, and performance in the course.
Coletta, Vincent P.; Phillips, J.
We describe a number of activities we have begun using in interventions targeting students who are at risk in introductory college physics courses. Some are adaptations of the work of others with pre-high school children, including Philip Adey in Great Britain (Cognitive Acceleration though Science Education), Reuven Feuerstein in Israel (Instrumental Enrichment), and Kurtz and Karplus in the U. S. in the 70’s (Numerical Relationships). We have also added some other activities, including Sudoku strategy development.
Sokoloff, David R.
Widespread physics education research has shown that most introductory physics students have difficulty learning essential optics concepts - even in the best of traditional courses, and that well-designed active learning approaches can remedy this problem. This mini-workshop and the associated poster session will provide direct experience with methods for promoting students' active involvement in the learning process in lecture and laboratory. Participants will have hands-on experience with activities from RealTime Physics labs and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations - a learning strategy for large (and small) lectures, including specially designed Optics Magic Tricks. The poster will provide more details on these highly effective curricula.
Horodynski-Matsushigue, L. B.; Pascholati, P. R.; Vanin, V. R.; Dias, J. F.; Yoneama, M.-L.; Siqueira, P. T. D.; Amaku, M.; Duarte, J. L. M.
Dice throwing is used to illustrate relevant concepts of the statistical theory of uncertainties, in particular the meaning of a limiting distribution, the standard deviation, and the standard deviation of the mean. It is an important part in a sequence of especially programmed laboratory activities, developed for freshmen, at the Institute of Physics of the University of São Paulo. It is shown how this activity is employed within a constructive teaching approach, which aims at a growing understanding of the measuring processes and of the fundamentals of correct statistical handling of experimental data.
Brewe, Eric; Kramer, Laird; O'Brien, George
Among the most surprising findings in Physics Education Research is the lack of positive results on attitudinal measures, such as Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) and Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX). The uniformity with which physics teaching manages to negatively shift attitudes toward physics learning is striking. Strategies which have been shown to improve conceptual learning, such as interactive engagement and studio-format classes, provide more authentic science experiences for students; yet do not seem to be sufficient to produce positive attitudinal results. Florida International University’s Physics Education Research Group has implemented Modeling Instruction in University Physics classes as part of an overall effort toward building a research and learning community. Modeling Instruction is explicitly designed to engage students in scientific practices that include model building, validation, and revision. Results from a preinstruction/postinstruction CLASS measurement show attitudinal improvements through both semesters of an introductory physics sequence, as well as over the entire two-course sequence. In this Brief Report, we report positive shifts from the CLASS in one section of a modeling-based introductory physics sequence, for both mechanics (N=22) and electricity and magnetism (N=23) . Using the CLASS results and follow up interviews, we examine how these results reflect on modeling instruction and the unique student community and population at FIU.
Partensky, Michael B.
The circle of Apollonius is named after the ancient geometrician Apollonius of Perga. This beautiful geometric construct can be helpful when solving some general problems of geometry and mathematical physics, optics, and electricity. Here we discuss two of its applications: localizing an object in space and calculating electric fields. First, we pose an entertaining localization problem to trigger students' interest in the subject. Analyzing this problem, we introduce the circle of Apollonius and show that this geometric technique helps solve the problem in an elegant and intuitive manner. Then we switch to seemingly unrelated problems of calculating the electric fields. We show that the zero equipotential line for two unlike charges is the Apollonius circle for these two charges and use this discovery to find the electric field of a charge positioned near a grounded conductive sphere. Finally, we pose some questions for further examination.
Şahin, Esin; Yağbasan, Rahmi
This study aims at diagnosing which subjects pre-service physics teachers have difficulty understanding in introductory physics courses and what accounts for these difficulties. A questionnaire consisting of two qualitative questions was used to collect data for this study. The questionnaire was administered to 101 pre-service physics teachers who have completed the courses Physics 1 (Mechanics 1), Physics 2 (Mechanics 2), Physics 3 (Electricity) and Physics 4 (Magnetism). Of the pre-service physics teachers 28 were second year, 26 were third year, 27 were fourth year and 20 were fifth year students. The results of the data analysis indicated that the percentage of students who think that Magnetism has the most difficult subjects is the highest compared to the others. The reasons why the pre-service physics teachers experience difficulty in understanding the subjects have been grouped into four categories.
Huwe, Paul; Field, Scott
Recent and exciting discoveries in astronomy and cosmology have inspired many high school students to learn about these fields. A particularly fascinating consequence of general relativity at the forefront of modern cosmology research is gravitational lensing, the bending of light rays that pass near massive objects. Gravitational lensing enables high-precision mapping of dark matter distributions in galaxies and galaxy clusters, provides insight into large-scale cosmic structure of the universe, aids in the search for exo-planets, and may offer valuable insight toward understanding the evolution of dark energy. In this article we describe a gravitational lensing lab and associated lecture/discussion material that was highly successful, according to student feedback. The gravitational lens unit was developed as part of a two-week summer enrichment class for junior and senior high school students. With minor modifications, this lab can be used within a traditional classroom looking to incorporate topics of modern physics (such as in a unit on optics).
Ekwue, Eleazer U.
The practical nature of physics and its reliance on mathematical presentations and problem solving pose a challenge toward presentation of the course in an online environment for effective learning experience. Most first-time introductory college physics students fail to grasp the basic concepts of the course and the problem solving skills if the instructional strategy used to deliver the course is not compatible with the learners' preferred learning styles. This study investigates the effect of four instructional strategies based on four learning styles (listening, reading, iconic, and direct-experience) to improve learning for introductory college physics in an online environment. Learning styles of 146 participants were determined with Canfield Learning Style inventory. Of the 85 learners who completed the study, research results showed a statistically significant increase in learning performance following the online instruction in all four learning style groups. No statistically significant differences in learning were found among the four groups. However, greater significant academic improvement was found among learners with iconic and direct-experience modes of learning. Learners in all four groups expressed that the design of the unit presentation to match their individual learning styles contributed most to their learning experience. They were satisfied with learning a new physics concept online that, in their opinion, is either comparable or better than an instructor-led classroom experience. Findings from this study suggest that learners' performance and satisfaction in an online introductory physics course could be improved by using instructional designs that are tailored to learners' preferred ways of learning. It could contribute toward the challenge of providing viable online physics instruction in colleges and universities.
Bogdan, Abigail; Kuhl, Dennis
Ideally, a physics class would improve both students' academic abilities and their attitudes towards physics. This study was designed both to investigate any correlation between academic ability and epistemology, and to examine the effects of teaching style on academic and epistemological growth. Over four hundred students in high school and college introductory physics courses were given two pre- and post-instruction surveys: the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE) to measure knowledge of physics and the Epistemological Beliefs Assessment for Physical Science (EBAPS) to quantify epistemological beliefs about physics. The average normalized gains from each class were then compared to teaching style. It was found that, though different teaching styles produced drastically different academic gains, student epistemologies remained fairly constant.
Marton, F.; McCrary, M.
Bergen Community College (BCC) is a two-year college in the New York City metropolitan area with a diverse student body and total enrollment of approximately 17,000. Most students have a gen-ed requirement of two lab science courses which employ numerous methods of assessment, including tests. Traditionally, students take tests individually and often, once they get back the graded tests, glance over the results and file the tests away. In addition to individual test-taking, we have begun using and comparing two types of procedures to see how their understanding of the material may improve in introductory-level geology and physics classes. The first procedure explored the benefit of group work to reinforce concepts, worth 20% of the overall test grade. Conceptual and algebra-based physics classes took short group tests, consisting of open-ended challenge questions, preceding their traditional, individual exam. We found the group testing significantly helped the physics students; in some cases, counting for more than 20% of their overall test grade. Because those problems were done at the beginning of the test, it helped many students reinforce their understanding of the physics concepts through intense group discussion, which allowed them to be more relaxed and confident when they did their individual problems. In geology, the students re-did the T/F, MC, and fill-in questions that they answered independently first. By consulting with their fellow students, they were able to talk over the concepts and correct their answers if they felt they were initially wrong. Overall, when the questions were re-done during the group testing, the median improvement in correct answers was 16-24%. Moreover, students generally felt either confident in their answers or, if they changed them, understood the concepts better. For the second type of test procedure, students in a geology class were able to make corrections to the T/F, MC, and fill-in questions that they got wrong. If they
Frohne, Mary Vickie
Much of the science taught in elementary schools is physics, even though it is called "physical science" at that level. To encourage pre-service teachers to learn more about physics, we are offering a new and special introductory physics course that is restristed to education majors. Our aim is to teach them basic physics in such a way that they will be readily able to apply their knowledge in a preschool or K-8 classroom. The approach of the course is very conceptual. Special features of the course include group learning, "check questions" at the beginning of each lecture, multiple short lab activities, hands-on lecture demonstrations, and extensive use of everyday materials in labs and lecture demonstrations.
Kohl, Patrick; Finkelstein, Noah
In a previous study of a traditional, large-lecture algebra-based physics course, we demonstrated that giving students a choice of representational format when they solve quiz problems could have either significantly positive or negative performance effects, depending on the topic and representation used. Further, we see that students are not necessarily aware of the representation with which they are most competent. Here, we extend these results by considering two courses taught by a reform-style instructor. These performance data are substantially different in character, with the students from the reform courses showing much smaller performance variations when given a choice of representation. From these data, we hypothesize that students in the reform courses may be learning a broader set of representational skills than students in the traditional course. We therefore examine major components of the courses (exams, homeworks, lectures) to characterize the use of different representations. We find that the reform courses make use of richer selections of representations, and make more frequent use of multiple representations, suggesting a mechanism by which these students could have learned these broader skills.
Wutchana, U.; Emarat, N.
The Maryland Physics Expectations (MPEX) survey was designed to probe students' expectations about their understanding of the process of learning physics and the structure of physics knowledge--cognitive expectations. This survey was administered to first-year university students in Thailand in the first semester of an introductory calculus-based…
Saraiva da Rocha, Fábio; Fajardo, Fabio; Grisolía, Maricarmen; Benegas, Julio; Tchitnga, Robert; Laws, Priscilla
Being able to facilitate effective hands-on laboratory experiences in introductory physics courses is a challenging task, even when contemporary laboratory facilities, equipment, and new technologies for data collection and analysis are available. At institutions without adequate resources, especially those in developing countries, we have found that the problem of providing effective laboratory experiences is especially daunting for at least two reasons: 1) the lack of equipment and contemporary measuring devices; and 2) even at institutions that have some laboratory equipment, students who have access to cell phones with digital timing and video capabilities or inexpensive digital cameras are bored with trying to use "old-fashioned" apparatus for measurements.
O’Shea, Brian; Terry, Laura; Benenson, Walter
We present outcomes from curricular changes made to an introductory calculus-based physics course whose audience is primarily life sciences majors, the majority of whom plan to pursue postbaccalaureate studies in medical and scientific fields. During the 2011–2012 academic year, we implemented a Physics of the Life Sciences curriculum centered on a draft textbook that takes a novel approach to teaching physics to life sciences majors. In addition, substantial revisions were made to the homework and hands-on components of the course to emphasize the relationship between physics and the life sciences and to help the students learn to apply physical intuition to life sciences–oriented problems. Student learning and attitudinal outcomes were assessed both quantitatively, using standard physics education research instruments, and qualitatively, using student surveys and a series of postsemester interviews. Students experienced high conceptual learning gains, comparable to other active learning–based physics courses. Qualitatively, a substantial fraction of interviewed students reported an increased interest in physics relative to the beginning of the semester. Furthermore, more than half of students self-reported that they could now relate physics topics to their majors and future careers, with interviewed subjects demonstrating a high level of ability to come up with examples of how physics affects living organisms and how it helped them to better understand content presented in courses in their major. PMID:23737630
O'Shea, Brian; Terry, Laura; Benenson, Walter
We present outcomes from curricular changes made to an introductory calculus-based physics course whose audience is primarily life sciences majors, the majority of whom plan to pursue postbaccalaureate studies in medical and scientific fields. During the 2011-2012 academic year, we implemented a Physics of the Life Sciences curriculum centered on a draft textbook that takes a novel approach to teaching physics to life sciences majors. In addition, substantial revisions were made to the homework and hands-on components of the course to emphasize the relationship between physics and the life sciences and to help the students learn to apply physical intuition to life sciences-oriented problems. Student learning and attitudinal outcomes were assessed both quantitatively, using standard physics education research instruments, and qualitatively, using student surveys and a series of postsemester interviews. Students experienced high conceptual learning gains, comparable to other active learning-based physics courses. Qualitatively, a substantial fraction of interviewed students reported an increased interest in physics relative to the beginning of the semester. Furthermore, more than half of students self-reported that they could now relate physics topics to their majors and future careers, with interviewed subjects demonstrating a high level of ability to come up with examples of how physics affects living organisms and how it helped them to better understand content presented in courses in their major. PMID:23737630
Urone, Paul Peter
An accessible, algebra-based text covering the introductory physics necessary for applied health and nursing. Presentation integrates health science applications throughout. Excellent illustrations support the exposition. Chapters contain over 100 worked examples, over 450 review questions, and more than 550 end-of-chapter problems graded according to difficulty. Offers discussion of the latest applications such as ionizing radiation and radiation doses, nuclear imaging techniques, CT scanners, ultrasound techniques, artificial hearts, and laser surgery.
Zurcher, Ulrich; Kaufman, Miron; Bergen, Zakiyyha; Ferguson, Robert
As team members of the Northeast Ohio Center of Excellence for Mathematics and Science Teachers Education [NEOCEx], we prepared some innovative lesson plans aimed in particular for students majoring in Biology and PreMed. We discuss several examples involving the high-jump, baseball, hydrostatic pressure, and swimming [buoyancy]. We find that applications from biology and medicine provide a source of context-rich problems for algebra-based introductory physics.
The purpose of this study was to determine the predictors of student grades in introductory physics courses utilizing problem-based learning (PBL) approach and traditional lecturing. The study employed correlational/predictive methods to investigate and describe/explain relationships of students' physics grades with their expectations, attitudes,…
Rebello, Carina M.
This study explored the effects of alternative forms of argumentation on undergraduates' physics solutions in introductory calculus-based physics. A two-phase concurrent mixed methods design was employed to investigate relationships between undergraduates' written argumentation abilities, conceptual quality of problem solutions, as well…
In this paper, we explore the use of isomorphic problem pairs (IPPs) to assess introductory physics students' ability to solve and successfully transfer problem-solving knowledge from one context to another in mechanics. We call the paired problems "isomorphic" because they require the same physics principle to solve them. We analyze written…
Saul, Jeffery M.; Deardorff, Duane L.; Abbott, David S.; Allain, Rhett J.; Beichner, Robert J.
The Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment University Physics (SCALE-UP) project at North Carolina State University (NCSU) is developing a curriculum to promote learning through in-class group activities in introductory physics classes up to 100 students. The authors are currently in Phase II of the project using a specially designed…
Cole, Beverley; Wessel, Jean
Purpose: There is little understanding of how physical therapy students are influenced by clinical instructors (CIs) particularly at the outset of their clinical learning. The purpose of this study was to evaluate physical therapy students' perceptions of their learning experiences during an introductory clinical placement. Methods: Subjects were…
Li, Lie-Ming; Li, Bin; Luo, Ying
We modified the Just-in-Time Teaching approach and developed a dual safeguard web-based interactive (DGWI) teaching system for an introductory physics course. The system consists of four instructional components that improve student learning by including warm-up assignments and online homework. Student and instructor activities involve activities both in the classroom and on a designated web site. An experimental study with control groups evaluated the effectiveness of the DGWI teaching method. The results indicate that the DGWI method is an effective way to improve students' understanding of physics concepts, develop students' problem-solving abilities through instructor-student interactions, and identify students' misconceptions through a safeguard framework based on questions that satisfy teaching requirements and cover all of the course material. The empirical study and a follow-up survey found that the DGWI method increased student-teacher interaction and improved student learning outcomes.
Research suggests that students benefit from peer interaction and active engagement in the classroom. The quality, nature, effect of these interactions is currently being explored by Physics Education Researchers. Spelman College offers an introductory physics sequence that addresses content and research skills by engaging students in open-ended research projects, a form of Project-Based Learning. Students have been surveyed at regular intervals during the second semester of trigonometry-based course to determine the frequency of interactions in and out of class. These interactions can be with current or past students, tutors, and instructors. This line of inquiry focuses on metrics of Social Network analysis, such as centrality of participants as well as segmentation of groups. Further research will refine and highlight deeper questions regarding student performance in this pedagogy and course sequence.
Kohlmyer, Matthew Adam
Matter & Interactions, an innovative introductory physics curriculum developed by Ruth Chabay and Bruce Sherwood, emphasizes computer modeling and fundamental physical principles. Two think-aloud protocol studies were conducted to investigate the performance of students from this curriculum in solving physics problems that require computer modeling. Experiment 1 examined whether Matter & Interactions students would, given the choice, use computer modeling to solve difficult problems that required predicting motion, and how their solution approaches differed from those of students from a traditional introductory physics course. Though they did not overwhelmingly choose computer modeling, some M&I students did write computer models successfully or apply the iterative algorithm by hand. The solution approaches of M&I students and traditional course students differed qualitatively in their use of the momentum principle and pre-derived special case formulas. In experiment 2, Matter & Interactions students were observed while they wrote programs in the VPython language in order to examine their difficulties with computer modeling. Areas of difficulty included determining initial conditions, distinguishing between simulated time and the time step, and updating momentum and position. Especially troublesome for students was the multistep procedure for calculating a force that changes with time. Students' understanding of the structure of a computer model improved by the end of the semester as shown by their performance on a line sorting task. Students with fewer difficulties proceeded through the computer model in a more linear, straightforward fashion. Instruction was revised based on initial findings from the first phase of the experiment. Students in the second phase of the experiment, who had used the revised instruction, had fewer difficulties on the same tasks, though other factors may have been involved in the improvement.
Entropy changes underlie the physics that dominates biological interactions. Indeed, introductory biology courses often begin with an exploration of the qualities of water that are important to living systems. However, one idea that is not explicitly addressed in most introductory physics or biology textbooks is dominant contribution of the entropy in driving important biological processes towards equilibrium. From diffusion to cell-membrane formation, to electrostatic binding in protein folding, to the functioning of nerve cells, entropic effects often act to counterbalance deterministic forces such as electrostatic attraction and in so doing, allow for effective molecular signaling. A small group of biology, biophysics and computer science faculty have worked together for the past five years to develop curricular modules (based on SCALEUP pedagogy) that enable students to create models of stochastic and deterministic processes. Our students are first-year engineering and science students in the calculus-based physics course and they are not expected to know biology beyond the high-school level. In our class, they learn to reduce seemingly complex biological processes and structures to be described by tractable models that include deterministic processes and simple probabilistic inference. The students test these models in simulations and in laboratory experiments that are biologically relevant. The students are challenged to bridge the gap between statistical parameterization of their data (mean and standard deviation) and simple model-building by inference. This allows the students to quantitatively describe realistic cellular processes such as diffusion, ionic transport, and ligand-receptor binding. Moreover, the students confront ``random'' forces and traditional forces in problems, simulations, and in laboratory exploration throughout the year-long course as they move from traditional kinematics through thermodynamics to electrostatic interactions. This talk
McCaskey, Timothy L.
In this dissertation, I perform and compare three different studies of introductory physics students' epistemological views -- their views about the nature of knowledge and how it is learned. Physics education research (PER) shows that epistemological views affect how students learn, so they are important to understand and diagnose. The first study uses a Likert-scale instrument, adapted from the Maryland Physics Expectation Survey, designed to assess to what extent students see physics knowledge as coherent (rather than piecemeal), conceptual (rather than just formulas), and constructed (rather than absorbed). Using this survey, I documented several results, including that (i) a large lecture class can produce favorable changes in students' epistemological views, at least in the context of the class, and (ii) teaching a rushed modern physics unit at the end of an introductory sequence can lead to negative epistemological effects. The second study uses the Force Concept Inventory with modified instructions: students indicated both the answer they think a scientist would give and the answer that makes the most sense to them personally. A "split" between these two answers shows that the student does not think she has reconciled her common sense with the formal physics concepts. This study showed that attention to reconciliation in a course allows students to see initially-counterintuitive ideas as making sense. Finally, I did a detailed study of one student by (i) watching video of her in tutorial, where she and three other students answered a structured series of conceptual and quantitative physics questions, (ii) formulating interviews based largely on what I observed in the video, and (iii) interviewing her while the tutorial was still fresh in her head. I repeated this cycle every week for a semester. I found that her tendency to focus on the multiple and ambiguous meanings of words like "force" hampered her ability to reconcile physics concepts with common sense
Baily, Charles; Finkelstein, Noah D.
[This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Upper Division Physics Courses.] Most introductory quantum physics instructors would agree that transitioning students from classical to quantum thinking is an important learning goal, but may disagree on whether or how this can be accomplished. Although (and perhaps because) physicists have long debated the physical interpretation of quantum theory, many instructors choose to avoid emphasizing interpretive themes; or they discuss the views of scientists in their classrooms, but do not adequately attend to student interpretations. In this synthesis and extension of prior work, we demonstrate the following: (i) instructors vary in their approaches to teaching interpretive themes; (ii) different instructional approaches have differential impacts on student thinking; and (iii) when student interpretations go unattended, they often develop their own (sometimes scientifically undesirable) views. We introduce here a new modern physics curriculum that explicitly attends to student interpretations, and provide evidence-based arguments that doing so helps them to develop more consistent interpretations of quantum phenomena, more sophisticated views of uncertainty, and greater interest in quantum physics.
Dreyfus, Benjamin William
Energy is a unifying concept that cuts across physics, chemistry, and biology. However, students who study all three disciplines can end up with a fragmented understanding of energy. This dissertation sits at the intersection of two active areas of current research: the teaching and learning of energy, and interdisciplinary science education (particularly the intersection of physics and biology). The context for this research is an introductory physics course for undergraduate life sciences majors that is reformed to build stronger interdisciplinary connections between physics, biology, and chemistry. An approach to energy that incorporates chemical bonds and chemical reactions is better equipped to meet the needs of life sciences students than a traditional introductory physics approach that focuses primarily on mechanical energy, and so we present a curricular thread for chemical energy in the physics course. Our first set of case studies examines student reasoning about ATP hydrolysis, a biochemically significant reaction that powers various processes in the cell. We observe students expressing both that an energy input is required to break a chemical bond (which they associate with physics) and that energy is released when the phosphate bond is broken in ATP (which they associate with biology). We use these case studies to articulate a model of interdisciplinary reconciliation: building coherent connections between concepts from different disciplines while understanding each concept in its own disciplinary context and justifying the modeling choices in deciding when to use each disciplinary model. Our second study looks at ontological metaphors for energy: metaphors about what kind of thing energy is. Two ontological metaphors for energy that have previously been documented include energy as a substance and energy as a location. We argue for the use of negative energy in modeling chemical energy in an interdisciplinary context, and for the use of a blended
Slezak, C.; Koenig, K. M.; Endorf, R. J.; Braun, G. A.
This paper examines the educational impact of the implementation of the tutorial activity “Changes in Energy and Momentum” from The Tutorials in Introductory Physics in five different instructional settings. These settings include (1) a completely computer-based learning environment and (2) use of cooperative learning groups with varying levels of instructor support. Pre- and post-tests provide evidence that a computer-based implementation falls significantly short of classroom implementations which involve both collaborative learning groups and interactions with a teaching assistance. Other findings provide insight into the importance of certain elements of instructor training and the appropriate use of the tutorial as an initial introduction to a new concept.
In a typical semester, approximately 2000 students are registered into a calculus based introductory physics course at Georgia Tech. In each course, approximately 75 percent of a student's final grade is based on exam performance. Our goal was to encourage students into the feedback cycle of self-regulated learning by asking them to complete exam wrappers; post examination assignments that ask student to reflect on their study habits and errors made during an exam. We cluster students into groups based on how they partitioned their study time. We analyze exam and overall course performance for each group. In addition, we compare the performance of students who completed exam wrappers with those that did not. We find that exam wrappers are useful tool for both the instructor and student.
Ryan, Qing X.; Frodermann, Evan; Heller, Kenneth; Hsu, Leonardo; Mason, Andrew
The combination of modern computing power, the interactivity of web applications, and the flexibility of object-oriented programming may finally be sufficient to create computer coaches that can help students develop metacognitive problem-solving skills, an important competence in our rapidly changing technological society. However, no matter how effective such coaches might be, they will only be useful if they are attractive to students. We describe the design and testing of a set of web-based computer programs that act as personal coaches to students while they practice solving problems from introductory physics. The coaches are designed to supplement regular human instruction, giving students access to effective forms of practice outside class. We present results from large-scale usability tests of the computer coaches and discuss their implications for future versions of the coaches.
Li, Sissi; Demaree, Dedra
At Oregon State University, the introductory calculus-based physics sequence utilizes social engagement as a learning tool. The reformed curriculum is modeled after the Interactive Science Learning Environment from Rutgers University, and makes use of Peer Instruction as a pedagogical tool to facilitate interactions. Over the past two years we have utilized a number of techniques to understand how to facilitate activities that promote productive discussion within the large lecture classroom. We specifically seek student discussion that goes beyond agreement on conceptual questions, encouraging deeper discussions such as what assumptions are appropriate, or how different assumptions would change the chosen answer to a given question. We have quantitative analysis of engagement based on video data, qualitative analysis of dialogue from audio data, and classroom observations by an external researcher. In this paper we share a subset of what we have learned about how to engage students in deep-level discussions during lecture.
Kreutzer, Kimberley; Boudreaux, Andrew
Gender differences in student learning in the introductory, calculus-based electricity and magnetism course were assessed by administering the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism pre- and postcourse. As expected, male students outgained females in traditionally taught sections as well as sections that incorporated interactive engagement (IE) techniques. In two of the IE course sections, however, the gains of female students were comparable to those of male students. Classroom observations of the course sections involved were made over an extended period. In this paper, we characterize the observed instructor-student interactions using a framework from educational psychology referred to as wise schooling. Results suggest that instructor practices affect differential learning, and that wise schooling techniques may constitute an effective strategy for promoting gender equity in the physics classroom.
We discuss the effect of administering conceptual and quantitative isomorphic problem pairs (CQIPP) back to back vs. asking students to solve only one of the problems in the CQIPP in introductory physics courses. Students who answered both questions in a CQIPP often performed better on the conceptual questions than those who answered the corresponding conceptual questions only. Although students often took advantage of the quantitative counterpart to answer a conceptual question of a CQIPP correctly, when only given the conceptual question, students seldom tried to convert it into a quantitative question, solve it and then reason about the solution conceptually. Even in individual interviews, when students who were only given conceptual questions had difficulty and the interviewer explicitly encouraged them to convert the conceptual question into the corresponding quantitative problem by choosing appropriate variables, a majority of students were reluctant and preferred to guess the answer to the conceptual question based upon their gut feeling.
Richardson, Chris T.; O'Shea, Brian W.
In this work, we investigate whether gender differences are present in the iClicker student response system during introductory physics lectures in an engaged environment. We find that men and women are equally likely to respond to questions correctly and in the same amount of time. We also find that both genders make use of multiple responses in the same timescale, however, the average number of responses for a given question is significantly higher for men than women. Upon analyzing these responses, we also find men are slightly more likely than women to change their response, while the response base station is open. Both genders benefit from peer instruction by answering more quickly and correctly. The connection between previously documented timescale differences, differences in ungraded responses, and their implications for the classroom environment are discussed.
The Curiosity rover safely landed on Mars after "seven minutes of terror" passing through the Martian atmosphere. In order to land safely, Curiosity had to decelerate from speeds of several kilometers per second and reach zero speed exactly upon touching down on the surface. This was accomplished by a combination of atmospheric drag on the enclosed spacecraft during the initial hypersonic entry, deployment of a large parachute, and retrorockets. Here, we use the familiar concepts of introductory physics to explain why all three of these factors were necessary to ensure a safe landing. In particular, we analyze the initial deceleration of a spacecraft at high altitudes, its impact speed if a parachute is not used, its impact speed if a parachute is used, and the duration of its descent on a parachute, using examples from Curiosity and other missions.
In this thesis, I discuss the development and evaluation of tutorials ranging from introductory to graduate level. Tutorials were developed based upon research on student difficulties in learning relevant concepts and findings of cognitive research. Tutorials are a valuable resource when used either in-class or as a self-study tool. They strive to help students develop a robust knowledge structure of relevant topics and improve their problem solving skills. I discuss the development of a tutorial on the Lock-in amplifier (LIA) for use as both an on-ramp to ease the transition of students entering into the research lab and to improve student understanding of the operation of the LIA for those already making use of this device. The effectiveness of this tutorial was evaluated using think aloud interviews with graduate students possessing a wide range of experience with the LIA and the findings were uniformly positive. I also describe the development and evaluation of a Quantum Interactive Learning Tutorial (QuILT) that focuses on quantum key distribution using two protocols for secure key distribution. One protocol used in the first part of the QuILT is administered to students working collaboratively in class while the second protocol used in the second part of the QuILT was administered as homework. Evaluation of student understanding of the two protocols used in this QuILT shows that it was effective at improving student understanding both immediately after working on the QuILT and two months later. Finally, I discuss the development and evaluation of four web-based tutorials focusing on quantitative problem solving intended to aid introductory students in the learning of effective problem-solving heuristics while helping them learn physics concepts. Findings suggest that while these tutorials are effective when administered in one-on-one think-aloud interviews, this effectiveness is greatly diminished when students are asked to use the tutorials as a self
Hake, Richard R.
A survey of pre/post test data using the Halloun-Hestenes Mechanics Diagnostic test or more recent Force Concept Inventory is reported for 62 introductory physics courses enrolling a total number of students N=6542. A consistent analysis over diverse student populations in high schools, colleges, and universities is obtained if a rough measure of…
Abdul-Razzaq, Wathiq N.; Boehm, Manfred H.; Bushey, Ryan K.
Introductory physics laboratories have been demonstrated in some instances to be difficult or uninteresting to students at the collegiate level. We have developed a laboratory that introduces the concept of the Lorentz force and allows students to build a non-traditional DC motor out of easily acquired materials. Basic electricity and magnetism…
Hartley, Laurel M.; Momsen, Jennifer; Maskiewicz, April; D'Avanzo, Charlene
Biology majors often take introductory biology, chemistry, and physics courses during their first two years of college. The various and sometimes conflicting discourse about and explanations of matter and energy in these courses may contribute to confusion and alternative conceptions (those that differ from scientific consensus) in biology…
Pridmore, Brooke M.; Halyard, Rebecca A.
Results of a preliminary study that examined various factors relating to achievement in introductory level biology, chemistry, and physics classes at a public junior college are presented. Background variables, including age, sex, college major, grade point average, SAT-Verbal and SAT-Quantitative, and the sixteen-part scores of Academic…