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12535An Overview on Research on Gender and Under-Represented Ethnicities in Physics Education
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14686
This chapter provides an overview of the physics education research focusing on two under-represented populations in physics: women and under-represented races and ethnicities. A brief overview of the historical data on the participation of women and under-represented races leads into some of the questions that PER has asked regarding how physics education may differently affect these groups. Suggestions for those interested in doing such research are provided.Education Foundations/Societal Issues/Gender Issueshttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14686Wed, 14 Mar 2018 17:31:00 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=146862017 Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14559
The theme of the 2017 Physics Education Research (PER) Conference was "Mathematization and Physics Education."
The focus on mathematics in physics is increasing along with connections between the PER and Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (RUME) communities. Thus we highlighted mathematization research at the 2017 PERC. Mathematization refers to the spontaneous tendency to use mathematical concepts to quantify and make sense of the physical world. It is not about how well people can perform mathematical procedures. Rather, mathematization describes how people conceptualize the meaning of mathematics in the context of physics.
Expert-like mathematization in physics involves both a procedural and conceptual mastery of the prerequisite mathematics involved. Gray and Tall highlighted this distinction and refer to the target learning goal as proceptual understanding, in which procedural mastery and conceptual understanding coexist. When reasoning mathematically with physics quantities, many students become entrenched in a procedural approach. Some reach a high level of procedural efficiency without much conceptual mathematical understanding, while other students develop greater mathematical flexibility. An achievement gap emerges between those performing procedurally and those developing greater flexibility. This gap in early math learning is referred to as the proceptual divide.
The proceptual divide is evident in physics courses, where success depends on having a proceptual understanding of both the prerequisite math and the learned physics. For example, the obstacles calculus level students encounter using basic proportional reasoning when it involves physics quantities and real numbers, rather than everyday quantities and whole numbers. Similarly, most introductory physics students approach symbol-rich physics problems that involve calculus or trigonometry as a procedure, framing their task as one of answermaking instead of sensemaking.General Physics/Physics Education Researchhttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14559Fri, 02 Mar 2018 12:32:12 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14559The use of epistemic distancing to create a safe space to sensemake in introductory physics tutorials
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14678
In active engagement physics classrooms, students get opportunities to make sense of physics together through discussion. They do not always take up these opportunities, in part because of the risk of sharing their ideas and having them rejected by their classmates or the instructors. In this case study, I analyze videotaped discourse of a tutorial group’s early discussions to investigate how students manage these risks in creating a safe space to sensemake. I find that the students rely on a discursive resource – epistemic distancing – to share their ideas while protecting themselves affectively if others disagree. Epistemic distancing includes hedging, joking, deferring, and other discourse moves used to soften one’s stance in conversation. I use video analysis to illustrate the effects of these moves on one tutorial group’s initial sensemaking discussions. I then discuss implications for instructors wishing to encourage sensemaking discussions in their physics classrooms.Education Practices/Active Learning/Cooperative Learninghttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14678Fri, 02 Mar 2018 10:51:15 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14678Negative quantities in mechanics: a fine-grained math and physics conceptual blend?
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14570
Physics experts move fluidly between varied meanings of the negative sign associated with physical quantities. Although researching student understanding of negative numbers is common in mathematics education, little research has been published that focuses on students’ interpretation of negativity in the context of physics quantities. In this study, we investigated student reasoning about the negative sign associated with acceleration, work and position. A theoretical model of the mathematical nature of negativity guided our development of three open-ended survey items which were administered to students in introductory calculus-based physics courses. We observed that students who use vector direction as a resource to reason about negative acceleration and negative work tend to be more flexible across the three natures of negativity probed in our survey than students who use predominantly motion and energy-based reasoning. We followed up with a secondary study in which the intervention group was asked to explain their reasoning from a mathematical perspective in the context of negative work, and observed that this epistemic nudge led to significant improvement. We interpret the productive reasoning space associated with physics quantity as a tight cognitive blend in which the physics and the mathematics are indistinguishable. This interpretation departs from prior models based on separable physics worlds and math worlds.Education Foundations/Learning Theory/Transferhttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14570Thu, 01 Mar 2018 23:20:29 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14570Concept and empirical evaluation of a new curriculum to teach electricity with a focus on voltage
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14571
Effective reasoning about electric circuits requires a solid understanding of voltage and potential. However, most students fail to correctly analyze electric circuits as they tend to reason exclusively with current and resistance. To address these difficulties, a new curriculum based on the electron gas model was developed and empirically evaluated in a study with 790 students from Frankfurt, Germany. The study follows a pretest- posttest-control-group design and uses a recognized two-tier diagnostic test instrument, which also allows evaluating common alternative conceptions. The results of the diagnostic assessment are very promising; students taught according to the new curriculum not only develop a significantly better conceptual understanding of voltage, but also show achievement gains of about twice that of their traditionally taught peers.Education Practices/Curriculum Developmenthttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14571Thu, 01 Mar 2018 23:13:01 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14571Instructor perspectives on iteration during upper-division optics lab activities
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14582
Although developing proficiency with modeling is a nationally endorsed learning outcome for upper-division undergraduate physics lab courses, no corresponding research-based assessments exist. Our longterm goal is to develop assessments of students' modeling ability that are relevant across multiple upper-division lab contexts. To this end, we interviewed 19 instructors from 16 institutions about optics lab activities that incorporate photodiodes. Interviews focused on how those activities were designed to engage students in some aspects of modeling. We find that, according to many interviewees, iteration is an important aspect of modeling. In addition, interviewees described four distinct types of iteration: revising apparatuses, revising models, revising data-taking procedures, and repeating data collection using existing apparatuses and procedures. We provide examples of each type of iteration, and discuss implications for the development of future modeling assessments.Education Practices/Active Learning/Modelinghttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14582Thu, 01 Mar 2018 23:08:20 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14582Student Interpretations of Partial Derivatives
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14584
We present results from an investigation into how students interpret partial derivatives at different points in their undergraduate career. We gave a long-answer survey to students that asked them to explain the meaning of the derivative in three different contexts. The survey was given near the beginning of a multivariable calculus class and at the start and end of a year-long junior-level physics sequence. We found two common overarching interpretations of the derivative: one corresponding to “slope” and the other to “change.” We discuss the results using a concept image framework based on the work of Zandieh. We also note differences in the response patterns of the students in the mathematics and physics courses and differences in how students interpret the derivative across different representations of functions.Education Foundations/Cognition/Cognition Developmenthttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14584Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:55:14 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14584Changing Student Conceptions of Newton's Laws Using Interactive Video Vignettes
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14585
Changing students’ incorrect conceptions in physics is a difficult process and has been studied for many years. Using a framework of elicit, confront, resolve, and reflect, this study analyzed student experiences with two Interactive Video Vignettes designed to change student misconceptions regarding Newton’s Second and Third Laws using a fully integrated mixed methods design. This paper explores how differences in how students experienced the framework impacted how much they were able to change their inaccurate conceptions of Newton’s Laws.Education Foundations/Assessment/Conceptual Assessmenthttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14585Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:51:35 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14585Multiple tools for visualizing equipotential surfaces: Optimizing for instructional goals
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14590
Curriculum developers are interested in how to leverage various instructional tools - like whiteboards, Mathematica notebooks, and tangible models - to maximize learning. Instructional tools mediate student learning and different tools support learning differently. We are interested in understanding how the features of instructional tools influence student engagement during classroom activities and how to design activities to match tools with instructional goals. In this paper, we explore these questions by examining an instructional activity designed to help advanced undergraduate physics students understand and visualize the electrostatic potential. During the activity, students use three different tools: a whiteboard, a pre-programmed Mathematica notebook, and a 3D surface model of the electric potential. We discuss how the tools may be used to address the the instructional goals of the activity. We illustrate this discussion with examples from classroom video.Education Practices/Instructional Material Design/Activityhttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14590Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:47:00 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14590Student conceptual resources for understanding mechanical wave propagation
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14592
Here we present preliminary results of our investigation of introductory physics students’ conceptual resources for understanding mechanical wave propagation. We analyzed a total of 446 student responses to a conceptual question about pulse propagation and identified two common, prevalent resources: (1) students treat pulses as macroscopic objects moving through a medium whose properties affect their speed, and (2) students treat pulses as propagating local disturbances. We illustrate some of the ways in which these resources manifested in student responses and discuss how we see such ideas as continuous with scientific understanding.Education Foundations/Problem Solving/Representational Usehttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14592Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:42:54 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14592Student Objections to and Understanding of Non-Cartesian Unit Vector Notation in Upper-Level E&M
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14599
The upper level E&M course (i.e. based on Griffiths) involves the extensive integration of vector calculus concepts and notation with abstract physics concepts like field and potential. We hope that students take what they have learned in their math classes and apply it to help represent and make sense of the physics. Previous work showed that physics majors at different levels (pre-E&M course, post-E&M course, 1st year graduate students) had great difficulty using non-Cartesian unit vector symbols appropriately in a particular context. Since then we have developed a series of problems they work on in groups and discuss as a whole class to help them confront and resolve some of their difficulties. This paper presents those problems, typical in-class group responses, and three years of post-test data. Results show that students have (i) a very strong initial negative reaction to the vagueness of the <style type="text/css">.vectorhat { display:inline-block; position:relative; width:auto; } .vectorhat::before { content: "^"; position:absolute; margin-top:-.35em; width:100%; text-align:center; }</style><em class="vectorhat">r</em> symbol, and (ii) an improved functional understanding of the notation as demonstrated by a better ability to use the symbols appropriately.Education Foundations/Student Characteristics/Affecthttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14599Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:32:18 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14599Analyzing student understanding of vector field plots with respect to divergence
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14609
A survey with N = 39 second-year students demonstrates that most students fail to relate graphical vector field representations to the concept of divergence. Even after providing them with two visual strategies (integral vs. derivative strategy), students still struggle to indicate whether vector fields have zero or non-zero divergence. To gain further insight into student reasoning, we captured their visual attention on the field plot via eye tracking. Fixation patterns and relevant eye-tracking measures reveal that both visual strategies are cognitively processed differently, and that success of either strategy depends on field characteristics. Future research will be outlined.Education Foundations/Cognitionhttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14609Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:29:29 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14609Comparing Students performance in QM between China and US
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14660
This paper discusses a comparative study on American and Chinese students’ conceptual understanding of quantum mechanics. We administered the Quantum Mechanics Survey (QMS) to over 400 undergraduate students from 10 universities in China and the United States. The results showed that students in American universities performed better than their Chinese peers on the QMS.Education Foundations/Societal Issues/International Issueshttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14660Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:24:27 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14660Student determination of differential area elements in upper-division physics
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14644
Given the significance of understanding differential area vectors in multivariable coordinate systems to the learning of electricity and magnetism (E&M), students in junior-level E&M were interviewed about E&M tasks involving integration over areas. In one task, students set up an integral for the magnetic flux through a square loop. A second task asked students to set up an integral to solve for the electric field from a circular sheet of charge. Analysis identified several treatments of the differential area: (1) a product of differential lengths, (2) a sum of differential lengths, (3) a product of a constant length with differential length in one direction, (4) a derivative of the expression for a given area, and (5) the full area.Education Foundations/Problem Solving/Heuristicshttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14644Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:14:36 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14644Modifying the Thermodynamic Concept Survey: Preliminary results
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14567
The Thermodynamic Concept Survey is a multiple-choice test used in the Physics Education Research community. Analyzing this survey, we detected two issues that made it difficult to evaluate students’ understanding on the survey’s topics: (1) numerous items present only responses of the type: “increase”, “decrease” or “remains unchanged” without including the reasoning that led to these answers, and (2) several questions have design problems. Considering these two issues, we decided to undertake a research project with the objective of modifying and refining this survey. In this article, we present preliminary results of this ongoing investigation regarding those two issues. In the first part, we illustrate the modifications made in some items, describing the modifications made in four of them. In the second part, we illustrate critical design problems in some items, describing in detail a problem in one of them. The results and discussion may be useful for researchers using the test as an assessment tool.Education Foundations/Assessment/Instrumentshttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14567Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:08:28 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14567The Prevalence of Selected Buoyancy Alternate Conceptions at Two Colleges
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14658
Review of prior studies, mostly at the K-12 level, along with long-answer responses and interviews given to undergraduates at Grove City College, have identified over 150 alternate conceptions about buoyancy. In order to probe how prevalent some of these are in the college-age population, we designed and administered multiple-choice and free-response questions to students at both the University of Washington and Grove City College. This paper presents some of those results.Education Foundations/Alternative Conceptionshttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14658Thu, 01 Mar 2018 21:57:37 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14658Participants' perceptions of the Faculty Online Learning Community (FOLC) experience
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14578
We report on a new model of educational reform, Faculty Online Learning Communities (FOLCs), that are based on providing and nurturing virtual communities of support for faculty engaged in learning about and implementing research-based teaching techniques. Data collected to date indicate that the FOLC model increases participants’ willingness to try new techniques, helps build their confidence to work through difficulties, increases their level of reflection about their teaching, and is viewed by participants as a positive experience that is worthy of their time. We conclude that this model is a promising addition to reform efforts built on standard Development and Dissemination (D&D) models of change.Education Practices/Professional Developmenthttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14578Thu, 01 Mar 2018 21:46:55 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14578A comparison of the impact of 3 forms of "hands-on" activities for learners with different scientific reasoning abilities
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14587
We have developed a set of activities designed to aid student understanding of torque and center of gravity. The activities exist in three forms, each appropriate for a group member engaged in a “hands-on” classroom experience: embodied, involving balancing objects on one’s hands, traditional hands-on, involving a meter stick balanced on a fulcrum, and observation of an experimenter performing the embodied activity. Our study is outside of the classroom and includes two populations of learners with significantly different abilities at pre-test. We find that the different types of training impact the two populations differently. In particular, participants with lower overall pre-test accuracies who observe the embodied activity show poorer gains on torque questions requiring proportional reasoning than participants with hands-on or embodied training, while observer participants with higher overall pre-test accuracies achieve high gains on even the more challenging transfer problems.Education Foundations/Assessment/Conceptual Assessmenthttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14587Thu, 01 Mar 2018 21:35:09 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14587Student responses to chain rule problems in thermodynamics
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14588
Students often struggle with the many partial derivatives used in the study of thermodynamics. This project explores how students respond to chain rule problems in an upper-level undergraduate thermodynamics course. This project’s dataset is composed of anonymized student responses to two such problems. We used an emergent coding method to sort responses by solution method. Observed solution methods include variable and differential substitution, implicit differentiation, differential division, and chain rule diagrams. The change of students’ solution methods between as signments was also observed. Responses were later analyzed to identify conceptual errors . Students make specific errors that provide insight into their lack of conceptual understanding of the solution methods.Education Foundations/Problem Solving/Processeshttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14588Thu, 01 Mar 2018 21:24:57 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14588Design strategies for research-based physics activities
http://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14611
Physics education researchers often design activities, then test whether the activities are effective in helping students learn. Many published activities have been described in the physics education literature. However, some instructors may want to create their own activities; these instructors may want to know about how the published activities were designed. To this end, we have interviewed several prominent designers and analyzed their publications as well as an American Association of Physics Teachers’ report on lab design. This paper focuses on a particular set of design philosophies that were important to these designers. “Revisiting cycles,” which address a single question in depth, were a common theme. We also argue that designers’ view of conceptual learning and of “thinking like a physicist” shapes their design plans.Education Practices/Curriculum Development/Laboratoryhttp://www.per-central.org/bulletinboard/Thread.cfm?ID=14611Thu, 01 Mar 2018 19:55:19 ESThttp://www.per-central.org/items/detail.cfm?ID=14611