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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Roundtable Discussion Abstracts

Abstracts are listed alphabetically by first author.

Rountable Discussions will take place Wednesday evening (5:30 to 9:30) in conjunction with the Contributed Poster Session and Reception.

Rafael M. Digilov and Miriam Reiner,Department of Education in Technology and Science, Technion - Israel

"Dimensional Analysis: Concept and Tool for Solving Physical Problems"

Most physics teachers emphasize applications of dimensional analysis (DA) in solving of physical problems to check the validity of mathematical derivations and equations relating physical quantities or to convert physical values from one system of units to another. These are fewer applying the DA. Another application of DA known in the theory of models can be quite useful also mastered by beginning physics students at any educational level. We discuss this topic and aspects related to introducing DA concept in science education.

Heidi Fencl, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay;
Kim Shaw, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

"An exploration of classroom factors which affect student success and perseverance in physics"

Self-efficacy, or a person's situation-specific belief that s/he can succeed in a particular task, has been shown to be a successful predictor of student success and perseverance in a variety of settings, including engineering education. It is not a static quantity, but rather is influenced by a person's ongoing experiences. In the case of self-efficacy in physics, influencing experiences might be expected to include those which are course related and other contextual variables.

Discussion in this session will focus on two complementary self-efficacy projects relating to students studying physics. The session will cover processes by which self-efficacy in physics can be measured; explorations of the ways in which classroom experiences do, or do not, impact it; and methods by which the results can be understood. The methods are particularly rich for exploration, as self-efficacy studies bring together methods and background from diverse fields including physics education, cognitive and vocational psychology, and sociology.

Calvin S. Kalman, Concordia University

"Helping students get the most out of introductory gateway science courses" (Contributed Roundtable Discussion)

This paper presents a course design for a gateway science course that encourages students to take greater responsibility for constructing their own knowledge of science with their professor and fellow students. The course includes two writing activities and a conceptual-conflict activity. Students who participated in these activities became aware of the importance of concepts in solving problems. All of the students became more involved in constructing their own understandings of the subject.

Vince Kuo, University of Minnesota; Charles Henderson, Western Michigan University; Edit Yerushalmi, Weizmann Institute for Science, Israel; Ken Heller, University of Minnesota; Pat Heller, University of Minnesota

"Multi-layered concept maps for the analysis of complex interview data*"

Concept mapping is a powerful tool for analyzing interview data. Concept maps were first used by Novak and Gowin(**) to understand student conceptions about physical phenomena based on interview transcripts. We have modified this analysis technique and used it in the analysis of interviews with physics faculty aimed at understanding their conceptions of several interrelated aspects of the teaching and learning of physics. Concept maps have several advantages in the analysis of complex interview data. These advantages include: (1) forcing the researchers to be explicit about claimed interrelations in the data, which is critical for clarifying different interpretations in the process of expert validation; (2) providing a transparent way to link the results of the analysis with the raw data, which facilitates triangulation by identifying similar ideas that came from different parts of the interview; and (3) allowing the combination of individual concept maps into composite concept maps, which provide visual representations of the similarities and differences between research participants. During the roundtable discussion, we will use concrete examples from our study to explain the procedures that we used to go from the interview transcripts to the final concept maps.

* Supported in part by NSF grant #DUE-9972470
** Novak, J. D., & Gowin, D. B. (1984). Learning how to learn. New York: Cambridge University Press

Sen-Ben Liao, Peter Dourmashkin, John Belcher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Judy Y. Dori, Technion, Israel

"A Comparison of the On-Term and Off-Term Freshman Electromagnetism at MIT Taught in the TEAL Format"

After an initial success of teaching the off-term freshman electromagnetism course using the TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) format to approximately 180 students for two semesters at MIT, in the 2003 spring semester, an on-term version was offered for the first time to approximately 550 students. In this talk, we compare and contrast the academic performance of the two groups of students, as well as their overall attitudes toward this new learning environment.

Antti Savinainen, Kuopio Lyseo High School, Finland; Jouni Viiri, University of Joensuu, Finland

"A Case Study Evaluating Students' Representational Coherence of Newton's First and Second Laws" (Roundtable Discussion)

Our paper presents a method of evaluating students' representational coherence in physics, i.e. their ability to use multiple representations and move between them, using Newton's first and second laws as an example. Data were collected in multiple ways so as to provide methodological triangulation on students' understanding: two well-validated multiple choice tests and two interviews were used. The paper discusses the extent to which five high school students exhibit representational coherence of Newton's first and second law after an introductory course on mechanics.

Edit Yerushalmi, Weizmann Institute for Science, Israel;
Bat-Sheva Eylon, Weizmann Institute for Science, Israel

"Assessing Reflection on Practice: A problem solving perspective"

Reflection on practice (ROP) serves to support teachers that introduce innovative instruction into their classrooms. There is an inherent dilemma between competing goals in ROP workshops: developing teachers' skill as reflective practitioners (process), vs. developing specific favored practices (result). This dilemma affects the evaluation of such workshops, as evaluation methods should align with the goals. In this session we will gain insight how to resolve the dilemma from the perspective of teaching scientific problem solving, where a similar dilemma between process and result is sharply manifested and thoroughly explored. Assessment methods and tools derived from this perspective were applied in a formative evaluation of a workshop for high school physics teachers. We will show how these analysis tools enabled us to identify differences in outcomes between versions of yearlong workshops that used different approaches to guidance of ROP. Our research can contribute to the planning and evaluation of ROP workshops.

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