Physics Education Research Conference
"The Practice of Analysis as a Window on Theory"

August 6-7, 2003
Monona Terrace Convention Center - Madison WI

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Invited Talk Abstracts

Abstracts are listed alphabetically.

David Hammer, University of Maryland

"Perspectives on elementary science teaching and teacher preparation" (Thursday 4 PM)

In designing physics courses as part of elementary teacher preparation, it is important to reflect on the demands on elementary science teaching: What does—or should—elementary science teaching entail? And answering that question, in turn, depends on understanding elementary science learning: What do the beginnings of scientific reasoning look like, and how might instruction promote them? All of these questions remain difficult, and different theoretical orientations, whether tacit or explicit, support different ways of thinking about them. I will discuss the analysis of a videotape, from an in-service teacher workshop, with respect to these orientations and how they might affect what researchers or teachers might notice and think to address.

This work is supported by NSF Grant ESI-9986846.

Paula Heron, University of Washington

"Empirical investigations of student understanding and the development of instructional materials: What do we assume? What can we conclude?" (Wednesday 3:30 PM)

Many empirical investigations conducted by the Physics Education Group at the UW span several years, during which time the attitudes and goals of the investigators evolve. I will review one such investigation and discuss the assumptions made by the investigators and how they evolved in the face of incoming data. Using this specific example as a basis, I will address the connection between assumptions that guide research and assumptions that guide the development of instructional materials. I will also discuss the conclusions that can be drawn from the outcomes of instructional interventions.

Andy Johnson, Black Hills State University

"Jargon, insight, and researcher beliefs - A theory-based physics education research study" (Wednesday 4:30 PM)

This talk will describe how a physics education research project proceeded from the basis of a deliberately selected theoretical perspective. I will give an example of how my own research on students' development of models of magnetism was based on particular theoretical perspectives on classroom interaction and learning. The research questions arose in the process of grappling with theory and hunches, and the research plan, data collection, and analysis were driven by those questions. The findings, however, were still determined by the students' actions. I will offer reasons for giving due consideration to theoretical issues of cognition and learning in PER.

Duncan E. McBride, National Science Foundation,

"NSF Support for Physics Education Research and Related Activities at the Undergraduate Level" (Thursday 3:30 PM)

I will describe some of the projects NSF is supporting in physics education research. In addition, current opportunities for support will be described and speculations on future directions will be given.

David E. Meltzer, Iowa State University

"The questions we ask and why: Methodological orientation in physics education research"* (Wednesday 4:00 PM)

I will review my research for a recent project on student learning of thermodynamics, focusing on over 35 hours of interview data. I will describe some of the hypotheses I had about students' thinking when I began the interviews, and the basis for those hypotheses in previous research. I will describe the design and revision of the interview protocol, and outline the evolution in my own thinking regarding students' ideas. I will review the principles underlying the research methodology and the assumptions implicit in its design. I will describe the type of evidence I was seeking, why I was looking for it ­ and not for other types ­ and what I actually found. I will discuss constraints of my methodology with respect to what the data do and do not reveal about the process through which students arrived at the ideas they expressed. Finally, I will draw some general implications for PER.

*Supported in part by National Science Foundation grant DUE-#9981140

John Thompson, University of Maine

"Promoting understanding of teaching and learning in physics: Graduate courses in physics education research" (Thursday 4:30 PM)

Physics Education Research (PER) has grown significantly as a field, especially in the last decade or so. There is a substantial (although admittedly incomplete) body of knowledge regarding student understanding in physics. Research results have been applied both to curriculum development and to the reform of instructional strategies. The growth and establishment of the field in general has led to a commensurate growth in the prevalence of graduate-level PER course offerings. Target populations for these courses include graduate teaching assistants, graduate students in PER, and high school teachers interested in discipline-based pedagogy. Courses of this nature can provide information to faculty regarding graduate students’ and teachers’ understanding of both content and pedagogy. I will provide an overview of several courses across the country that are offered, and discuss the goals of these courses. I will also present evidence that students in these courses can gain insight into student difficulties in learning physics and can acquire a critical eye for instructional materials and assessment.

Stamatis Vokos, Seattle Pacific University

"An all-paths approach to physics education research" (Thursday 12:30 PM)

Contact Information

Michael C. Wittmann
Department of Physics and Astronomy
5709 Bennett Hall
University of Maine
Orono ME 04401-5709

tel: 207 - 581 - 1237
fax: 207 - 581 - 3410

Rachel E. Scherr
Department of Physics
University of Maryland
College Park MD 20742-4111

tel: 301 - 405 - 6179
fax: 301 - 314 - 9531

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Last updated 2003.07.28