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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Speakers, Presenters, and Organizers

Speakers, presenters, and organizers are presented (in alphabetical order by first author, with their abstracts) on this page. More information on when they are speaking or presenting is given in the Schedule.

Alicia R. Allbaugh, Kansas State University
Paula V. Engelhardt, Kansas State University; Kara E. Gray, Kansas State University; Zdeslav Hrepic, Kansas State University; Salomon F. Itza-Ortiz, Kansas State University

"Student reasoning during an interview: A possible framework & implications"* (Part of Targeted Poster Session xA)

This poster set proposes a framework to characterize the processes of student reasoning during an interview, and discusses implications of the framework. The interviews on which this framework is based were conducted by five researchers, with different research goals. The research participants are enrolled in various introductory physics courses at KSU.

From our interview transcripts we have constructed a framework involving four aspects: [1] External Inputs (e.g. questions asked, verbal, graphic and other cues) from the interviewer and interview environment; [2] Tools (e.g. memorized and familiar formulae, laws and definitions, prior experiences) that the student brings to the interview; [3] Workbench encompassing mental processes (e.g. induction, accommodation) that incorporate the aforementioned inputs and tools; and [4] Answer given by the student.

We have used a coding scheme to map out reasoning paths through the four aspects of our framework. Our analysis finds remarkable commonality between students’ reasoning paths in different contexts as well as interesting patterns depending upon the question type, topical area etc. Based on these observed patterns we discuss the implications of our framework to elucidate the dynamics of student reasoning and its potential to inform the construction of interview protocols.

* Supported in part by National Science Foundation grants REC-0087788 and REC-0133621.

Bradley S. Ambrose, Grand Valley State University

"Incorporating a tutorial approach in an advanced mechanics course for physics majors" (Contributed Poster)

Over the past two years I have been developing and testing a set of instructional materials, modeled after Tutorials in Introductory Physics*, for use in a sophomore/junior-level mechanics course at Grand Valley State University. Together with current physics education research on introductory mechanics, the initial design of the materials was guided by anticipated student difficulties in understanding new representations of motion (e.g., phase space diagrams) and in connecting physical concepts with mathematics (e.g., equations of motion for linear and non-linear oscillations). Preliminary results have provided strong evidence for the need of such a modified approach and demonstrate in new ways the extent to which persistent difficulties with fundamental concepts can hinder meaningful learning of advanced topics.

*L.C. McDermott, P.S. Shaffer, and the Physics Education Group at the Univ. of Washington (Prentice Hall, 2002)

Eric C. Anderson, Avila University

"Different attitudes and expectations toward learning physics: Insight into the gender gap in physics achievement?"* (Contributed Poster)

It’s commonly suggested that introductory physics courses which feature guided, collaborative inquiry may relieve the prevalent gender gap in physics achievement. In my Workshop Physics-inspired course for life science students and preservice teachers, women achieve higher conceptual learning gains than in the traditional course it replaced, but the gap between women and men remains unchanged. One approach to understanding this persistent gender gap is to ask if, and in what ways, women and men differ in their attitudes and expectations about learning physics, assuming that favorable attitudes and expectations have something to do with conceptual learning gains. Results of the Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX) for my course indeed reveal significant gender differences in attitudes and expectations. Further, it appears that favorable attitudes and expectations are positively correlated with gains in conceptual understanding only for women, suggesting perhaps a more relevant research question.

*Supported in part by NSF grant #DUE-9851480

Gordon J. Aubrecht, II, Cristian Raduta, The Ohio State University

"Student understanding of Gauss's Law and charged-particle trajectories in regions of magnetic field" (Contributed Poster)

The way a student learns physics depends on the context, and does not take place in a vacuum. Although physics is the same worldwide, the instructional methods used, the way the exams are held, and the cultural context in which the physics learning process takes place all influence the way students understand and assimilate physics understanding. We present in this poster results obtained from a brief E&M survey taken by two populations of students: one from the Ohio State University (US), and the other (quite small) from Bucharest University (Romania). We discuss two problems given in a small E&M survey, in which students from both populations were presented with questions based on a knowledge of Gauss's Law and asked about the motion and forces on a point charge in a region containing a uniform magnetic field. Students answers to the Gauss's Law question were disappointing-a bare majority could solve the simplest problem; student answers to the magnetic field question depend on an understanding of the Lorentz force and student general knowledge from classical mechanics, which apparently does not transfer to E&M. Our results show that students in both countries generally know less about E&M after instruction than we, as teachers, wished them to have learned.

Jennifer Blue, Miami University

"Using Matched Samples to Look for Sex Differences" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xC)

There is considerable debate surrounding the causes of the observed differences in the physics performance of men and women. Some think that the differences are so often observed that they must be biological, and some think that there is such a difference in the way that parents and teachers treat boys and girls that the differences in achievement must arise from these social and cultural influences. In this study, men and women came into a large introductory physics course with several differences. A sample of men and women were matched on several pretest scores and several demographic characteristics, and their performance at the end of the course was compared. Both the selection of the matched sample and the results of the study will be discussed.

Florin Bocaneala, Lei Bao, The Ohio State University

"Connectionist modeling in physics learning" (Contributed Poster)

A strictly syntactical approach to human cognition based on computational hypothesis limits itself to a mainly descriptive account of cognitive behavior. A symbolic treatment of the learner fails shortly of providing more than cataloging of rules addition-extension to a production system. Attempts of extending or relaxing the inherent constraints of the computational hypothesis (e.g. Bayesian semantical networks) are welcome in as much as a semantical content makes itself needed. In this paper we test the versatility of the connectionist approach to modeling the dynamics of students learning. We take a case of problem solving from an introductory physics class and we construct a connectionist model for it. Based on this case, we try to argue for the future of the connectionist modeling in the Physics Education Research and for what this approach can teach us about how physics learning takes place.

Eric Brewe, Hawaii Pacific University

"Identifying "expertise" as a long-term goal for introductory physics" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xD)

The stated goal for The Energy Thread, an energy centered curriculum designed from the modeling perspective on physics education, was to enhance the development of expertise in novice physics students. Evaluating the successes and failures of this curriculum, hinged on the ability to assess the development of expertise. Evaluating expertise is a broad objective and my attempt at realizing that goal involved various assessments of physics students. In this poster, I will focus on the collection of problem solving data and use of representational tools in focus group interview data. Further, I will provide examples of my efforts at analyzing these data to draw conclusions about the development of expertise in novice students.

Geraldine Cochran, Chicago State University, [1]; Robert Beichner, North Carolina State University

"Using Physics Education Research to Develop an Optics Diagnostic" (Contributed Poster)

Previous research has shown that students struggle with a number of concepts in geometrical optics. The purpose of this ongoing research is to develop an optics diagnostic that will uncover these difficulties. My goals for this project are to: 1) create a list of specific objectives or concepts to address with the diagnostic, 2) develop test items for these objectives, 3) conduct one-on-one interviews with students as they attempt to answer the items, and 4) modify the test items based on the analysis of the interview responses. In an effort to identify student difficulties in geometrical optics, results from earlier studies in student understanding of geometrical optics have been reviewed. After conducting interviews using open-ended questions, multiple-choice versions of the items will be produced. Current progress regarding these goals will be presented.

[1] Chicago State University Mentor: Dr. Mel S. Sabella

Melissa Dancy, Davidson College

"Authority as a Mechanism for Gender Effects in a Seemingly Gender Neutral Assessment" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xE)

This poster explores the epistemological view of authority. I will summarize both the epistemological theories of William Perry, based entirely on men, and Women's Ways of Knowing, based entirely on women. I will then present data from the FCI and ask what these theories offer for data analysis. Finally, I will argue that issues such as epistemology can lead to bias in assessment. Arguments from outside the physics education community will be presented that explain how a standardized test, such as the SAT, could be biased toward a particular race or gender even though the context of the questions, and the skills that appear to be measured, have no obvious connection to race or gender.

Charles De Leone, Graham Oberem, California State University, San Marcos

"Toward Understanding Student Conceptions of the Photoelectric Effect" (Contributed Poster)

The photoelectric effect is part of a group of phenomena that provide the experimental basis for the photon model of light. Most students pursuing a degree in physics or a related field first study the photoelectric effect and the photon model of light in a "modern physics" course following directly after the introductory physics sequence. It has been documented that many students have trouble understanding the photoelectric effect itself, and its connection to the photon model of light. In an attempt to better understand student preconceptions and misconceptions of this topic, we conducted a study of students in a modern physics class at California State University, San Marcos. In this poster we will provide preliminary results of our research with specific emphasis on the knowledge base required to understand the photoelectric effect.

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

"Dimensional Analysis: Concept and Tool for Solving Physical Problems" (Roundtable Discussion)

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.

Paula V. Engelhardt, Kara E. Gray, Zdeslav Hrepic, Salomon F. Itza-Ortiz, Alicia R. Allbaugh, N. Sanjay Rebello & Dean A. Zollman, Kansas State University

"A framework for student reasoning in an interview"* (Part of Targeted Poster Session xA)

We propose a framework to characterize students’ reasoning in an interview. The framework is based on interview data collected by five researchers, with different research goals. The participants were enrolled in various introductory physics courses at Kansas State University. Our framework includes external inputs (e.g. questions asked, verbal, graphic and other cues) from the interviewer and interview environment; tools (e.g. memorized or familiar formulae, laws and definitions, prior experiences) that the student brings to the interview; a workbench encompassing mental processes (e.g. induction, accommodation) that incorporate the inputs and tools; and the answer given by the student. We describe how the framework can be used to analyze interview data.

* Supported in part by NSF Grants REC-0087788 and REC-0133621.

Paula V. Engelhardt, N. Sanjay Rebello, Edgar Corpuz, and Darryl Ozimek, Kansas State University

"The Teaching Experiment - What it is and what it isn't" (Contributed Poster)

Much of the research to investigate how students' reason or what knowledge structures they possess and utilize have typically been done using the clinical interview format. The clinical interviews are often semi-structured and may or may not involve demonstration equipment. In the early 1980's, mathematics researchers began experimenting with a new style of interviewing which they termed the "teaching experiment." These two methods will be compared and contrasted within the context of sound. Students from a conceptually-based introductory physics course were interviewed using both formats in an effort to understand how they view the production of sound from musical instruments.

Eugenia Etkina, New Jersey State University, Rutgers

"What did you learn this week and why do you believe in it?"* (Part of Targeted Poster Session xD)

Using Weekly Reports(1) we investigated how students answered these questions in an Extended Analytical Physics course--an introductory course for freshmen engineering students at-risk that is taught via the Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE)(2). These students have low SAT scores, low mathematics placement course, and are considered to be at risk of failure(3). We collected and coded(4) the Weekly Reports of 130 students during two semesters (28 weeks total). Using the coding scheme we attempted to answer the following questions: How do at-risk students reflect on the construction of physics knowledge? What epistemological preferences do they show in the reports? Is there a correlation between students' conceptual gains, problem solving abilities, and the code indications? How do their reports compare to the reports of honors engineering students studied before? The poster will present the data, data analyses, and preliminary interpretations.

*Supported in part by NSF DUE #0088906

1 Etkina, E. (2000). Weekly Reports: A two-way feedback tool. Science Education 84, 594-605.
2 Etkina, E. & Van Heuvelen, A. (2001). Investigative Science Learning Environment: Using the processes of science and cognitive strategies to learn physics. Proceedings of the 2001 Physics Education Research Conference. Rochester, NY, 17-21.
3 Brahmia, S. & Etkina, E. (2001). Switching students on to science: An innovative course design for physics students. Journal of College Science Teaching, 31 (3), 183-188.
4 May, D. & Etkina, E. (2002). College physics students' epistemological self-reflection and its relationship to conceptual learning. Physics Education Research: A Supplement to the American Journal of Physics, 70 (12), 1249-1258.

Cathy Mariotti Ezrailson, Texas A&M University

"Is there a Need for Teaching Teaching? Assessing the need for Instructional Methods for Graduate Teaching Assistants: Results of a Pilot Study at TAMU" (Contributed Poster)

Graduate teaching assistants are most often expected to either intuitively know how to teach or “pick it up” while teaching undergraduates in introductory physics. This pilot study examines need for explicit training in the use of interactive-engagement methods and their application by graduate teaching assistants. The study was carried out in the spring semester, 2003 in two introductory honors physics sections at Texas A& M University (n = 27), Five sections of introductory physics classes acted as controls. Students in both the treatment and control groups were administered the FCI and CSEM along with a student profile and a nature of science survey. This study was a pilot to a larger study to be undertaken prior to and during the fall semester 2003.

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" (Roundtable Discussion)

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.

Noah Finkelstein, University of Colorado, Boulder

"Considering data from a broad perspective: what about including social and economic factors in Physics Education Research?" (Targeted Poster Session xE)

Each of these posters examines a particular data set from a lens that includes social, cultural, historical, and or economic drives which shape and are shaped by the environments from which they are drawn. The explicit goal of this session is to emphasize the importance of including this broadest scale of analysis when creating and studying educational reforms.

Additional details

Noah Finkelstein, University of Colorado, Boulder

"Critical Points: getting students to think before college -- and having to fight to do so." (Part of Targeted Poster Session xE)

Despite evolving from rather backgrounds and perspectives, high schools and colleges generally achieve the same results in introductory physics courses. Most widely publicized of these results is that in each of these environments students fail to learn the foundational concepts that are presented. The poster examines data collected from teaching an introductory college physics class offered at a local public high school. How well organized is the high school to prepare students for some of the more progressive reforms found in introductory college classrooms? What are the constraints in each of these environments (college and high school) that allow for the opportunity to reach and teach students?

By comparing data from the high school environment and a large-scale university course covering the same material, this poster examines trends from social- and institutional pressures that shape the forms of learning that may (and may not) occur in these disparate environments.

Thomas H. Foster, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville;
Kathleen A. Harper, The Ohio State University

"Methodologies of problem solving research" (Targeted Poster Session xF)

We propose a targeted poster session on methodologies of problem solving research. The focus will be on the different types of data one might collect and the subsequent analysis, and how these decisions relate to the specific area probed by the research. Each presenter will be asked to describe a useful technique, explain valid applications of that technique, and discuss how the generated data is analyzed.

Additional details

Thomas M. Foster, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

“Real-time Coding versus Careful Reflection: A Tale of Two Rubrics” (Part of Targeted Poster Session xF)

Traditional quantitative evaluation of curriculum reforms requires a quasi-experimental design and testable statistics. But is this paradigm tenable when the curricula objective is problem-solving? There are a number of issues to overcome including population variances, changing contexts, and skill selection. Rubrics can provide a way to measure problem solving skills, but they come with their own issues including effort, validity, reliability, and the balance of each.

Scott V. Franklin and Stacey M. Davis, Rochester Institute of Technology

"Can we measure the impact of individual student learning style preferences?" (Contributed Poster)

Students express a range of preferences for learning environments, be it quiet/noisy, bright/dark, or individual/group. Much work has shown the benefit of matching the learning environment with the student preference; this has led to the use of multiple teaching techniques in the same classroom in order to appeal to as many students as possible. We are looking at whether it is possible to measure the impact of matching individual student's expressed preference. For example, are students who express a preference for solitary learning handicapped by being forced to work in a group? Over the past year, we have administered the Building Excellence Learning Styles Assessment and looked for correlations with class performance. We have analyzed videotapes of group interactions and followed these up with individual student interviews. Finally, this spring we conducted a pilot project in which students worked in groups and alone on two separate activities. We then looked for differences in how the same student approached two different learning environments.

Kara E. Gray, Zdeslav Hrepic, Salomon F. Itza-Ortiz, Alicia R. Allbaugh, Paula V. Engelhardt, N. Sanjay Rebello & Dean A. Zollman, Kansas State University

"Implications of a framework for student reasoning in an interview"* (Part of Targeted Poster Session xA)

We discuss the implications of a framework to characterize student reasoning in an interview. Our framework, described in a previous paper, enables a researcher to identify various cognitive elements used by a student during an interview. Here we demonstrate how this framework can help identify reasoning paths used by the students. We describe the underpinnings of our framework in cognitive psychology. We also discuss how this framework can be applied to both a coarse and fine grain analysis of reasoning and how it can also be used to infer implicit reasoning processes used by a student.

*Supported in part by NSF Grants REC-0087788 and REC-0133621.

David Hammer, University of Maryland

"Perspectives on elementary science teaching and teacher preparation" (Invited Talk, 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.

Danielle Boyd Harlow, Valerie K. Otero, University of Colorado, Boulder

"Can Third Grade Students Develop Sophisticated Conceptual Models?"

Research in physics education indicates that students' naive conceptions such as the clashing currents model of electricity are common among introductory physics students. Is it possible that these conceptions begin as early as the third grade? Research on student learning in the elementary classroom revealed that children as young as eight-years-old construct sophisticated and abstract conceptual models to make sense of their observations of electrical phenomena. This paper focuses on a discussion among three children about the nature of the flow of electricity in a simple circuit. The models they developed and the children's discourse is surprisingly similar to the models and discourse of university students in inquiry-based physics courses.

Kathleen A. Harper, The Ohio State University

“Expert-Novice Comparisons to Illuminate Differences in Perceptions of Problem Solutions” (Part of Targeted Poster Session xF)

Comparing the performances of experts and novices on particular problem solving tasks has been a popular technique throughout the history of problem solving research. This research has uncovered differences in the ways the two groups categorize, approach, and solve problems. Recently, a similar technique has been applied asking these two groups questions about pre-written solutions to problems, revealing differences in what the two groups think problem solving is. These results and their implications for instruction will be discussed.

Charles Henderson, Western Michigan University

"Easier Said Than Done: A Case Study of Instructional Change Under the Best of Circumstances" (Contributed Poster)

A substantial body of research evidence suggests that traditional physics instruction does not produce the desired student learning outcomes. Some college instructors find this evidence convincing and attempt to change their instruction. It is known that not all of these instructors are successful. Little is known, however, about what factors can impede or facilitate these changes. This poster will present the preliminary results of a case study of one physics instructor in his first semester of attempting to use research-based instructional strategies in an introductory calculus-based physics course after 20 years of traditional teaching. Data sources include daily class observations and weekly interviews with the instructor. Although this instructor appeared to have all of the prerequisites for successful change, he still encountered difficulties. Four factors are identified that limited his ability to change.

Charles Henderson, Western Michigan University;
Vince H. Kuo, Ken Heller, Pat Heller, University of Minnesota;
Edit Yerushalmi, Wiezmann Institute for Science

“Using Semi-Structured Interviews and Multi-Layered Concept Maps to Generate an Initial Model of Physics Faculty Beliefs about Problem Solving” (Part of Targeted Poster Session xF)

Explanatory models are a crucial part of any scientific field. A useful model not only allows scientists to explain empirical observations, but can also lead to the creation of new lines of research. The goal of a generative study is to develop new models or new elements of existing models. This type of study is appropriate when working in an area where little prior research has been conducted. In the first phase of a three-phase research program, we used interviews with 6 research university instructors to generate an initial model of instructor thinking about teaching and learning. As part of this model, we identified 3 qualitatively different ways that these instructors think about the problem-solving process: a linear decision-making process, a process of exploration and trial and error, and a creative process that is different for each problem. This poster will describe how this initial model was generated and how it can be used.

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

"Multi-layered concept maps for the analysis of complex interview data*" (Roundtable Discussion)

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

Paula Heron, University of Washington

"Empirical investigations of student understanding and the development of instructional materials: What do we assume? What can we conclude?" (Invited talk, 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.

Ray Hodges, University of Maryland

"Physicists' epistemologies of quantum mechanics" (Contributed Poster)

The role of epistemology in students' understanding of introductory physics is being studied within the science education community. Students are not the only possible subjects for this type of study. How do the epistemologies of physicists' affect their understanding? I have examined this question in the context of quantum mechanics. When physicists are solving standard and non-standard quantum problems, what do they believe about their knowledge of the quantum world and how does this affect their work? I have conducted interviews with physics professors in which they were asked to work through a series of problems and questions about quantum mechanics. I have analyzed their responses to determine their epistemological views of quantum mechanics. In this talk I present the results of this analysis.

Zdeslav Hrepic, Dean Zollman and Sanjay Rebello, Kansas State University

"Students' understanding and perceptions of the content of a lecture"

In spite of advances in physics pedagogy, the lecture is by far the most widely used format of instruction. We investigated students' understanding and perceptions of the content delivered during a physics lecture. Participants viewed a segment of a videotaped lecture on sound propagation by a well known teacher. All of the participants were enrolled in a conceptual physics course and had previously covered the topic in class. Before viewing the lecture, the participants responded to a series of conceptual questions on sound. The participants then looked for answers to these questions in the videotaped lecture. On a written questionnaire, they indicated instances, if any, in which these questions were answered during the lecture. In addition to the students, a group of content experts (physics instructors) also participated in our study. We will discuss students' and experts' responses to the questionnaire.

Leonardo Hsu, University of Minnesota

“Using Computers to Teach and Evaluate Problem Solving Skills” (Part of Targeted Poster Session xF)

Computers have long been used to help students learn to solve physics problems. However, the ability of computers to help evaluate students' problem solving abilities or to identify their difficulties in solving problems has not been fully exploited. Computers can generate log files giving detailed information about a students' use of computer tutorials. In this poster, I will discuss methods for analyzing log files and some of the questions which such analyses can address.

Salomon Itza-Ortiz, Benjamin Lawrence, Dean Zollman, Kansas State University

"Energy Mental Models: Mechanics Through Electromagnetism"*

In an introductory physics course the concept of energy is often introduced in mechanics contexts whit two main forms: kinetic energy (KE) and potential energy (PE). As the course progresses other forms of energy are introduced in different contexts (heat, light), but rarely do students relate all of these energy forms, other than in a discussion of energy conservation. We investigated students’ mental models for energy, and changes in these models, in going from mechanics to electromagnetism contexts. We interviewed students in a two-semester calculus-based physics course. Our research design included semi-structured interviews with demonstration. Based on findings from the interviews we developed the first version of an ‘Energy Mental Model Inventory, Mechanics.’ We present details of the interviews and the inventory.

*Supported in part by the National Science Foundation grant REC-0087788

Andy Johnson, Black Hills State University

"What do students think an exponent means?" (Contributed Poster)

This brief, exploratory project investigated college students' understandings of the implied operations behind positive integer exponents, negative integer exponents, and fractional exponents. Surprise! Many of the students did not offer correct descriptions of more basic operations equivalent to x^2 and x^(1/2).

They said other things instead. Classroom discussions with students also showed that many did not see a useful coherence among the three different types of exponents. An explicit activity focusing on the meanings of the three different kinds of exponents and their connections to each other, may have helped some students.

Andy Johnson, Black Hills State University

"Jargon, insight, and researcher beliefs - A theory-based physics education research study" (Invited talk, 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.

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.

Yeounsoo Kim, Korea National University of Education; Gyoungho Lee, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea; Lei Bao, The Ohio State University

"Students’ Cognitive Conflict from Counterintuitive VR in Learning Physics" (Contributed Poster)

Many studies have suggested that the experience of cognitive conflict can be important to students' conceptual changes. In light of this idea, many teaching tools (e.g., demonstration equipments) have been developed. There are a lot of teaching strategies using the tools in science instruction. In this research, we used Virtual Reality simulation as a teaching tool for facilitating conceptual change through cognitive conflict. We will discuss the potential effects of VR on learning mechanics.

This work is supported in part by NSF grant REC-0087788 and REC-0126070

Kathleen M. Koenig, Robert J. Endorf, University of Cincinnati

"Study of TA's ability to implement the Tutorials in Introductory Physics and student conceptual gain" (Contributed Poster)

Many students are not prepared for college physics and therefore perform poorly. This becomes a problem when students must pass physics as part of course requirements for their major. At the University of Cincinnati this problem is being addressed through the implementation of Tutorials in Introductory Physics [1] in the recitation sections of our calculus-based physics course. In recent years we have evidence that the Tutorials do increase both students’ conceptual understanding of physics as well as their success rate in the course. To make further improvements we have shifted our research focus to the training of the recitation TAs. This presentation will describe the training the TAs receive as well as the methodology and instruments used in the study to determine the effectiveness of each TA. Preliminary findings indicate that there is a relationship between the TA’s ability to implement the Tutorials and student conceptual gain.

[1] L.C. McDermott, P.S. Shaffer and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, Tutorials in Introductory Physics, First Ed. (Prentice Hall, 2002).

Matthew Kohlmyer, Ruth W. Chabay, Bruce A. Sherwood, North Carolina State University

"Observing Students’ Difficulties with Computer Modeling"

A distinguishing feature of the Matter and Interactions curriculum, in use at NCSU, is its emphasis on computer modeling. In the course, students write programs in VPython that use the same core procedure to simulate a variety of physical systems and behaviors, including planetary orbits, oscillation, and scattering. We wish to learn what difficulties students have in writing such programs. We are especially interested in difficulties with organizing the structure of the program, and with translating physics to computer code. Several students in the course were observed while they worked on computer programs similar to the ones assigned in class. Their understanding was probed through think-aloud protocols and instructor questioning. Their difficulties with computer modeling will be discussed, as well as implications for revising instruction.

Carolann Koleci, Worcester Polytechnic Institue

"Is analogical reasoning right on target?" (Contributed Poster)

A common problem-solving approach of novices is to work with examples, to arrive at a solution to a novel problem through the application of a set of knowledge concerning familiar situations similar to the target problem. Most of the cognitive science and educational psychology research chronicles the effects associated with the features of stimuli, for example the kind and the degree of isomorphism existing between the analogy and the target, but there is less attention toward the influence produced by the kind of elaboration of the analogy on the transfer to the target problem. We address the question entitled above, in the context of introductory physics, using data from a study conducted this past academic year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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

“Using Grounded Model Construction and Explicit Analysis Methods to Converge towards an Explanatory Model of Physics Faculty Beliefs about Problem Solving” (Part of Targeted Poster Session xF)

The goal of a convergent study is to refine and expand a scientific model. In the first phase of a three-phase research program, we used interviews with 6 research university instructors to generate an initial model that contained 3 qualitatively different ways that instructors think about the problem-solving process in the context of introductory physics. This poster will describe the second, more convergent phase of this research program. During this phase, components of the initial explanatory model were tested and refined based on an ongoing, more targeted analysis of an expanded data set, consisting of interviews conducted with physics instructors from community colleges, state universities and private colleges. This convergent analysis resulted in verification of the existence of three conceptions of the problem-solving process, refinement of the defining features of each process, as well as an increase in the level of detail within each process.

Gyoungho Lee, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea; Lei Bao, The Ohio State University

"Probing Context-dependency of Learning with the Context Map" (Contributed Poster)

In previous research, there are many studies that have identified a wide range of context factors that could affect student learning. In this research, we tried to understand the context-dependency of learning from a more holistic perspective. We used a tool called context map that provides a graphical representation of the effects and interactions of multiple context factors. Using context map, we probed several cases of students' learning in an introductory physics course and showed how context factors affected students' learning during a course.

This work is supported in part by NSF grant REC-0087788 and REC-0126070

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.

Yuhfen Lin, Gordon Aubrecht, The Ohio State University

"Graduate Students: experts and novices at the same time"

Most universities use graduate students as TAs teaching introductory level physics courses. At the same time, those graduate students are required to take graduate level courses. These students are the experts when they are teaching, but they are novices in the graduate courses they are taking. It is well known that experts and novices solve problems differently. This study will focus on whether graduate TAs teach like experts and learn like novices, or they benefit from their teaching experience and start to think like experts in unfamiliar fields.

Rebecca S. Lindell, Steven R. Sommer, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

"Using the Lunar Phases Concept Inventory to Investigate College Studentsí Pre-instructional Mental Models of Lunar Phases"

The Lunar Phases Concept Inventory (LPCI) is a twenty-item multiple-choice inventory developed to aid instructors in assessing the mental models their students utilize when answering questions concerning phases of the moon. Based upon an in-depth qualitative investigation of students' understanding of lunar phases, the LPCI was designed to take advantage of the innovative model analysis theory to probe the different dimensions of students' mental models of lunar phases. As part of a national field test, pre-instructional LPCI data was collected for nearly 1000 students from multiple post-secondary institutions across the United States and Canada. Application of model analysis theory to this data set allowed researchers to probe the different mental models of lunar phases students across the country utilize prior to instruction. Preliminary results of this analysis will be reported.

Laura Lising, University of Maryland

"Epistemological transfer: Sociopolitical motivations and theoretical perspectives." (Part of Targeted Poster Session xE)

The state of epistemology and learning research allows us to make a strong case for emphasizing scientific epistemology with our students in order to achieve our learning goals. However, I would like to argue that there are other, perhaps stronger motivations for trying to foster these stances. In particular, I will argue that scientific epistemology is liberation epistemology, crucial for authentic democracy and a tool for those fighting for social justice. One question that arises is how epistemological shifts and resources in different domains occur. Another issue that must be understood is epistemological transfer, the applying of epistemology from one context to another. How much does this happen already? How do we think of epistemological transfer from a resource-theory framework? And how do we foster epistemological transfer and, eventually, epistemological coherence?

Laura Lising, University of Maryland

"The theory that lies behind the "Jan" case study in epistemology and learning" * (Part of Targeted Poster Session xD)

In order to probe in detail the interaction of epistemology and learning, Elby and I have made a detailed case study of an introductory physics student, "Jan." We've presented some results at previous AAPT meetings. This poster focuses instead on how our theoretical orientation influenced our method and our analysis. We wanted to provide a fine-grained, causally mechanistic description of how Jan's epistemological views about learning and knowing physics affect her learning. But what counts as "fine-grained?" In our theoretical framework, epistemological views-even about a specific discipline such as physics-can vary with context. Many other researchers assume, by contrast, that epistemological views within a given discipline are more "belief-like." A researcher who ascribes epistemological beliefs to students would agree with us that clinical interviews with Jan provide a useful supplement to our classroom-based observations. But they would probably conduct and analyze those interviews differently from the way we did. Many studies have used interviews as opportunities for direct probes of epistemology through explicit questioning or student self-reflection. These are then analyzed with coding schemes designed to reveal the central consistencies in students' epistemological
behavior, not to explore and account for patterns in the inconsistencies. The point is that it's impossible to discuss what counts as "good" indicators of students' process-oriented skills and knowledge (such as epistemology) without reference-explicit or implicit-to the theoretical assumptions underlying those indicators and methods.

* Supported by NSF REC # 008 7519

Sanjoy Mahajan, University of Cambridge

"PER: Helping the Student or Serving the Corporate State?" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xE)

In their first year, physics majors in Cambridge do not understand Newton's first law. After four years of mostly traditional lectures, their understanding is no sounder. When I teach Order of Magnitude Physics, a course for juniors with no exam and lots of discussion and problem solving in class, students say that it was their favorite course because (1) it has no exam and (2) it rekindles their interest in physics, crushed in the previous years. This and other data convinces me not that students need PER, but rather that education alienates students from their learning and trains them for the corporate-warfare State. PER finds its inspiration in cognitive science, which arose from military money and needs (power!); and in science itself, which worships objectivity and universal obedience (power!). PER is therefore ore likely to varnish than to undermine the holy alliance of corporations, war, and education.

David P. Maloney, Indiana University- Purdue University, Fort Wayne

"An Overview of Research on Problem Solving in Physics" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xF)

Research on how students' attempts to solve physics problems has been going on for over a quarter of a century and we have learned much from this research. However, there is still much that is unclear, and the work to date has been of very limited value in helping students learn to solve problems. Why is that? This poster will raise a number of questions, e.g., What is a problem? Can a task be defined as a problem independent of the solver attempting the task? What are problem solving skills?, that I would argue have not been adequately addressed in most problem solving research. Some suggestions for directions in problem solving research will be given.

Jeff Marx, McDaniel University

"Students' Notions of Telescopes and Astronomical Light" (Contributed Poster)

I conducted post-instructional, fifteen-minute interviews with students from my general-science level astronomy class. The questions covered the workings of typical reflectors and refractors, the sources and properties of astronomical light, the relative importance of a telescope's magnification and light gathering ability, telescope construction and placement, and light pollution. The students responded with a mix of verbal and graphical answers. I concluded that students' posses only a loose set of ideas regarding optical telescopes and visible astronomical light. Most importantly, their responses were based heavily on bits of information they could recall from class or the text. In this poster, I will share some artifacts and summaries from the interviews, and other preliminary conclusions regarding students' notions of telescopes and astronomical light.

David B. May, David Hammer, University of Maryland

"Elements of expertise in the use of analogies in a 3rd-grade science discussion" (Contributed Poster)

Expertise in science involves the generation and use of analogies. How and when students might develop this aspect of expertise has implications for understanding how instruction might facilitate that development. We're at the beginning stages of trying to understand analogies as students use them in science classrooms. In a study of K-8 inquiry in physical science, we have seen several cases of spontaneous analogy generation at different levels of sophistication. In the case presented here, a 3rd-grader generates a particularly well-developed analogy and modifies it to reconcile his classmates' counter-arguments, allowing us to identify in these 3rd-graders specific elements of expertise in analogy use.

Duncan E. McBride, National Science Foundation,

"NSF Support for Physics Education Research and Related Activities at the Undergraduate Level" (Invited Talk, 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.

Timothy L. McCaskey, University of Maryland; Melissa H. Dancy, Western Carolina University; Andrew Elby, University of Maryland

"Effects on assessment caused by splits between belief and understanding" (Contributed Poster)

We performed a new kind of FCI study to get at the differences between what students believe and what they think scientists believe. Students took the FCI in the standard way, and then made a second pass indicating “the answer they really believe” and “the answer they think a scientist would give.” Students split on a large number of the questions, with women splitting more often than men.

Laura McCullough, University of Wisconsin - Stout

"Historical methods and gender in science education" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xC)

Any study of how education impacts the topic of women in science must take into account the history of women's science education if it is to be comprehensive. Historically, how were women educated in the field of science? This poster will discuss how researchers can use the historical record to assist in current research in the area, with examles of historical curricula and how this information has affected my own scholarship.

Laura McCullough, University of Wisconsin - Stout;
Heidi Fencl, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

"Women in the physics classroom: Considering gender as a variable for understanding our students" (Targeted Poster Session xC)

PER has a strong history of studying students as learners of physics and applying the resulting knowledge to the classroom. More recently, gender has been considered as a variable for understanding student experiences as learners of physics. In this session, presenters will explore how their methods and analyses have contributed to our understanding of students, especially women. Perspectives from chemistry as well as from physics will allow participants to contrast several approaches for a broader exploration.

Additional Details

David E. Meltzer, Iowa State University

"The questions we ask and why: Methodological orientation in physics education research"* (Invited talk, 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

Katherine VP Menchen, John R Thompson, The University of Maine

"Teacher understanding of propagation and resonance phenomena in sound"

Members of the Physics Education Research Laboratory at The University of Maine are exploring the understanding of sound in populations of undergraduates and K-12 teachers. In this poster, we will report on an investigation involving preservice and inservice teachers. As part of this project, we are developing instructional materials on sound for teachers in the style of Physics by Inquiry*. Recent work has focused on sound propagation and resonance phenomena. We will present examples of research that is guiding the design of the materials, including responses to written pre- and post-test questions and classroom observations.

Dawn Meredith and Michael Briggs, University of New Hampshire

"Assessment of The Strategic Component of Problem Solving" (Contributed Poster)

Improved problem solving skills is a goal of many physics courses, yet problem solving is difficult to define and assess. In particular, many assessments require detailed coding of student work that are time consuming and subjective. Also, problem solving itself is a complex task with at least four commonly identified pieces: gathering information, choosing a strategy, analyzing with the the given strategy, checking and learning. We will limit our study to the strategic portion of problem solving.

We propose to investigate if there are sub-skills required for successful completion of the strategic component of problem solving that are easily assessed that can act as proxies for this more complex skill. Possible candidates for proxies are conceptual knowledge, connections between concepts, knowledge of applicability of key concepts, working knowledge of generic problem solving strategies, and useful beliefs about problem solving. We have begun to develop assessments for these skills (or are using already developed assessments) that are easy to grade and administer. We will continue to develop these assessments and look for correlations between scores on these tests and students ability to find a correct strategy to solve complex physics problems.

Cathy Middlecamp, University of Wisconsin - Madison

"Tipping the balance of power: When women (and men) ask the questions" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xC)

Feminist and other alternative pedagogies point out that students are empowered when they can raise and answer questions of their own. However, in science courses, it is usually the instructors who are asking most of the questions. Given the chance, what questions might our female students raise? Do the types of questions vary by sex and ethnicity? This presentation will examine these and other related questions, drawing on the experience of teaching real-world issues such as nuclear energy, ozone depletion, alternative fuels and global warming for the past 15 semesters at UW-Madison.

Jeffrey Morgan, Michael C. Wittmann, John R. Thompson, The University of Maine

"Student Understanding of Quantum Tunneling"

Members of the University of Maine Physics Education Research Laboratory are studying student understanding of the phenomenon of tunneling through a potential barrier. Tunneling is a standard topic discussed in most modern physics and quantum mechanics courses. Understanding tunneling is crucial to making sense of several topics in physics, including scanning tunneling microscopy and nuclear decay. Preliminary investigations show that students often inappropriately use ideas from classical physics and common sense, everyday reasoning to make sense of unfamiliar situations. Consistent with previous results,[1] we have found that many students, even after instruction, incorrectly believe that particles tunneling through a barrier lose energy in the process. We discuss these and other results from a series of interviews conducted with upper-level undergraduate physics and engineering physics majors.

1. Edward F. Redish, Michael C. Wittmann, and Richard N. Steinberg, "Affecting Student Reasoning in the Context of Quantum Tunneling," AAPT Summer Meeting, 2000.

Ngoc Loan P. Nguyen, Warren M. Christensen, and David E. Meltzer, Iowa State University

"Students' use of rule-based reasoning in the context of calorimetry and thermal phenomena"* (Contributed Poster)

We have been engaged in an ongoing project to investigate and address student learning difficulties with calorimetry, heat, temperature, and related concepts. We have found that students tend to approach calorimetry problems involving two substances with differing specific heats by employing various "rules-of-thumb" such as "equal energy transfer implies equal temperature change," "objects approaching equilibrium with each other undergo equal temperature changes," and "temperature changes are directly proportional to specific heat." The choice of which rule to apply in a particular situation seems to be strongly dependent on context. It appears that instruction is effective in reducing reliance on some, but not all, of the inappropriate rules. However, related confusion regarding fundamental quantities such as temperature, heat, and internal energy has proved strongly resistant to attempts at improved instructional strategies. Moreover, improvements on standard instruction regarding student learning of basic calorimetry concepts have proved elusive as well.

*Supported in part by NSF Grant DUE-#9981140

Luanna G. Ortiz, Arizona State University

"Prompting students to be consistent during individual demonstration interviews"* (Part of Targeted Poster Session xA)

Individual demonstration interviews often involve simple physical demonstrations, about which students are asked to make predictions. The interviews typically have a predetermined protocol, with a series of specific questions that are asked of all participants. As part of an investigation conducted at the University of Washington on student understanding of rotational dynamics, we have included questions that we envision using in instructional materials on the equilibrium of rigid bodies [1]. Student responses have been analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the questions [2]. In this presentation, I will focus my analysis on the degree of consistency retained by science and engineering majors over the course of such an interview. Generalizations of apparent reasoning processes identified among the students will be discussed.

*This research has been conducted by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington and supported in part by the NSF Grants DUE 9354501 and DUE 9727648, which include support from the Division of Undergraduate Education, other Divisions of EHR and the Physics Division of MPS.

[1] Ortiz, L.G., “Identifying and addressing student difficulties with rotational dynamics,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Physics, University of Washington, 2001, (unpublished).

[2] See, for example, McDermott, L.C., “Research on conceptual understanding in mechanics,” Phys. Today 37, 24 (1984), as well as papers on empirical studies that appear in McDermott, L.C. & Redish, E.F., “Resource Letter: PER-1: Physics Education Research,” Amer. J. Phys. 67, 755 (1999).

Luanna G. Ortiz, Kevin L. Gibson, Arizona State University

"Retention of more advanced physics concepts as demonstrated by engineering students: An example in the context of modern physics"* (Contributed Poster)

At Arizona State University we are investigating student understanding of modern physics topics covered in a junior-level physics course required of engineering majors. The study also includes engineering seniors who have recently completed the course. We have administered quiz and examination problems on the wave nature of particles to both student populations. In this presentation we will examine whether the research tasks administered to assess long-term retention should be similar in character to those administered while students are in the course. On the basis of the preliminary results, further research questions regarding the analysis of the data have been generated. We will compare and contrast several paradigms that we have applied in the analysis of the data.

* Supported in part by the Quality of Undergraduate Education Grant Program, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, ASU.

Valerie K. Otero, University of Colorado at Boulder

"Elementary pre-service teachers’ conceptions of student prior knowledge: 'After I gave them their prior knowledge…'"

When it comes to teaching science, pre-service teachers often revert back to blank slate models of human cognition. This is often related to their understanding of science as a set of facts that come from authority and need to be taught by authority. I will present results from a research study that investigated prospective teachers' understanding of student prior knowledge and the purpose and process of collaboration in the classroom. Implications for teacher preparation will be discussed in terms of sociocultural theory which suggests that a primary factor in constructing understanding is the extent to which the content being learned is seen by the student as being applicable his or her life. The Physics for Elementary Teachers (PET) curriculum will be introduced as a strategy for helping teachers incorporate the physics they learn in college into their identities as elementary school teachers.

Kathy Perkins, Wendy Adams, Noah Finkelstein, Univ. of Colorado; Ron LeMaster, Kavli Institute; Sam Reid, Mike Dubson, Carl Wieman, Univ. of Colorado

"The Physics Education Technology Project: Web-based interactive simulations to support student learning"

We introduce the Physics Education Technology (PhET) Project, a new initiative to provide a suite of online tools for teaching and learning introductory physics at the high school and college levels. The project focuses on the development of relatively elaborate Java and Flash-based simulations that are designed to help students develop visual and conceptual models of physical phenomena. We are also developing guiding questions that will utilize the simulations to address specific conceptual difficulties, help students experience the relationships among variables, and connect physics to real-world experiences and observations. These simulations create an animated and interactive experience for the student that is designed to promote active thinking and encourage experimentation. They can also greatly enhance the presentation of material in a lecture setting. We will describe the project, a summary of the learning tools currently available, our preliminary experiences in using these tools in our classrooms, and our future plans for evaluating and assessing their effectiveness.


David E. Pritchard, Elsa-Sofia Morote and David Kokorowski, MIT

"Student Response Variables from Online Tutor System" (Contributed Poster)

On-line intelligent tutors allow us to “observe” students solving problems, collecting student responses far more thoroughly than standard tests. For approximately 100 students using myCyberTUTOR in an introductory physics course at MIT, we distill student responses into performance variables (relative to average on each problem) and quantity variables (proportional to problems done). For 12 such variables and 11 responses from an initial student survey, we studied correlations with student performance on standard paper assessments. The variables “correct on first attempt”, “time to solution”, and “latency time until first response” and “number of practice problems done” have significant correlations. We discuss preliminary searches for male-female differences. A comparison of this class with a high quality advanced high school class reveals a significantly different (and superior) problem solving strategy than the MIT students. Finally, the use of these data facilitates the monitoring and improvement of the tutorial problems by their authors.

Brian A. Pyper, Brigham Young University - Idaho;
Robert G. Fuller, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

"What do PER students study?" (Contributed Poster)

Graduate students in PER programs in physics departments are often required to take courses that are not required of typical physics graduate students. Also, in some physics departments, special seminar courses are offered for PER students. We have collected several (and would love more!) PER curricula and syllabi used in PER graduate seminars. With an eye to noting what things they have in common, and how they differ, we will show what our PER grad students are studying. The collected curricula and syllabi will be available at the conference, and posted on the web.

Eleanor Raulerson, Michael C. Wittmann, John R. Thompson, The University of Maine

"Resource Selection in Nearly-Novel Situations"

Members of the University of Maine Physics Education Research Laboratory have developed an iterative survey to study the process of resource selection in a specific nearly-novel situation – the construction of vacuum tube diodes. We use a resources model to describe student reasoning and introduce the idea of “cognitive space” to make sense of nearly novel situations. Preliminary data from upper level-undergraduate physics majors suggest that the ability to identify diode function in simple circuits predicts the ability to construct models of diodes.

Neville W. Reay, Lei Bao, Gordon Baugh, and Rasil Warnakulasooriya, The Ohio State University

"Group Work in a Physics Course for Feshman Engineering Honors Students" (Contributed Poster)

Group work that emphasized a "business-style" approach was introduced into the middle quarter of a calculus-based course for Freshman Engineering Honors students. Identical student groups were used in labs, recitations and the lecture. Groups sat together during lectures, and used voting machines to answer multiple-choice questions. An "outside-of-class" continuous-flow Ink Jet project that required "business-style" group skills was a major focus. Results will be presented based on several end-of-quarter surveys and extensive interviews with each group.

Sanjay Rebello, Kansas State University

"The dynamics of student reasoning during an interview" (Targeted Poster Session xA)

In this targeted poster session we discuss the processes by which university students' reasoning patterns evolve during an interview. Our research spans several topical areas and our research participants include physical science, life-science, engineering and non-science majors in at least three different institutions. We focus on the ways in which students assemble various knowledge elements in a dynamic process of knowledge construction during an interview. These sense-making processes are examined in contexts that include situations similar to textbook problems, demonstrations, experiments, applications to real-world devices, and everyday phenomena.

Many researchers have used theoretical frameworks spanning a wide range of grain sizes to describe student knowledge from disjointed phenomenological primitives to comprehensive theories. We examine whether and how these frameworks can be adapted to explain the dynamics of student reasoning.

Additional details

N. Sanjay Rebello, Kansas State University

"Student goals and expectations in a large-enrollment physical science class" (Contributed Poster)

What are the goals of non-science students taking a lecture-based physical science course as they begin the class? Do students' goals and expectations change as they progress through the class? To answer these questions we surveyed students on the first day of class about their goals for the course (in addition to getting a good grade), and the barriers they perceived in achieving these goals. Students were also asked what they, their instructor, and their classmates could do to help them achieve these goals. At the end of the course we again surveyed students and asked them the whether they were able to achieve their goals and the factors that helped or hindered them in the process. We will describe student responses on both the pre- and post-course surveys and the insights these responses give regarding students' perspective about the role of the instructor and peers in the learning process.

Seth Rosenberg, City College of New York

"Education for Revolution, not Educational reform: How the history of educational reform and it's relation to the u.s. economy reflects on the goals of independent thinking students." (Part of Targeted Poster Session xE)

This poster posits that there are a number of ‘hidden assumptions’ about the relationship between education and our society. These assumptions include education promoting social mobility and equality, along with personal development and empowerment. The primary goals of this poster are to point out that this role for education is not supported by the data, and to put forth an alternate relationship: the Correspondence Principle developed by Bowles and Gintis . According to the Correspondence Principle, the educational system, like all structures in capitalist society, evolves to mirror, support, and reproduce the relationships and inequalities of our economic system: schools prepare most students jobs in the oppressive economic system. I will support this interpretation using statistical and historical data. Since our educational system mirrors economic inequalities, I will conclude that substantive change will only come from working outside the educational system to radically restructure our economic system through revolution.

Mel Sabella, Chicago State University

"Physics Education Research with special populations: How do we characterize and evaluate the special needs and resources of students who are underrepresented in STEM education?" (Targeted Poster Session xB)

The Physics Education Research community has grown rapidly in the last few years. Many new members of the field were trained at large traditional research universities, but have now taken positions and begun research programs at different types of colleges and universities throughout the country. These researchers are now in positions in which the student population is quite different than the populations they have encountered and worked with during their training. In addition, because PER-based materials, for the most part, have been developed and tested at large research universities, there is relatively little data documenting the effectiveness of these materials with students at smaller colleges and universities. At the same time, several members of the PER community are investigating the special needs and resources of the populations of students who are underrepresented in STEM education. This targeted poster session will be an opportunity for researchers who are beginning to conduct research on student learning at institutions that serve these students to share results and discuss future avenues of research.

Additional details

Homeyra Sadaghiani, Lei Bao, The Ohio State University

"Ineffective Demonstration in Modern Physics Classes"

We asked students in modern physics classes at The Ohio State University to take on-line survey questionnaires. The questionnaires contained topics about in-class demonstrations, which students had observed in their classes during the quarter. Our observations and investigations show that a significant number of students did not recall many of the in-class demonstrations and were confused about the results of different demonstrations they had observed. We will include examples of the in-class demonstrations, survey questions, and students’ responses to these questions in this poster. Furthermore, we will explore the possible implications this research has for instructors of modern physics classes who tend to use in-class demonstrations as a part of lecture.

Cody Sandifer, Towson University

"Spontaneous Student-Generated Analogies" (Contributed Poster)

The purposes of this qualitative study were to (a) document the types of spontaneous analogies (SAs) generated by students as they engage in problem-solving and explaining activities, and (b) investigate the conditions under which students construct SAs. Outside of class, 8 algebra-based physics students engaged in two group problem-solving sessions and one individual explaining session. Overall, 18 spontaneous analogies were generated; these 18 represented analogies of all distances (local, regional, long) and types (relationships, attributes). At least 11 of the 18 analogies appeared to be successful in helping the generating student increase his or her understanding of a concept or problem. In this study, three conditions appeared to support the spontaneous generation of analogies: (1) sufficient prior understanding of the analogy target, (2) the presence of another friendly, supportive individual for the analogy-generating student, and (3) for some students, previous analogical examples (guidance) from other students.

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.

Rachel E. Scherr, University of Maryland

"Gestures as evidence of student thinking about physics" (Contributed Poster)

Student gestures are part of how students articulate their ideas, and can be of use to us in diagnosing student thinking and forming effective pedagogical responses. This poster presents examples of the gestures that occur in a conversation between students and a TA about a mechanics homework problem, and analyzes one gesture that was particularly significant to the conversation.

Manjula Devi Sharma, University of Sydney

"On the use of phenomenography in the analysis of qualitative data" (Contributed Poster)

Consider the idea that learning can be described in terms of what students learn rather than a description of how much they learn. We are concerned with the range and complexity of what students learn, and the patterns and trends in their responses. This is the basis of phenomenography; "Phenomenography is the empirical study of the differing ways in which people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, conceptualize various phenomena in and aspects of the world around us." The analysis does not look for pre-determined patterns but extracts patterns from the data. The process involves several stages of independent categorisations by a team of researchers and meetings to establish the boundaries of the categories.

In this presentation we will describe phenomenography and demonstrate its use in two separate studies; an investigation of students' understandings of gravity and a comparison of two groups of students awareness of the utility of physics.

Kim Shaw, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

"The development of a physics self-efficacy instrument for use in the introductory classroom" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xC)

Self-efficacy can be described as a person's belief in his/her own ability to accomplish a specific task to a given perforomance level. The PACER group at SIUE has been developing an instrument to examine the relationships between self-efficacy and
student performance in our introductory physics classrooms. Development of the instrument, as well as field data from this pilot instrument emphasizing self-efficacy as it relates to gender, will be discussed.

Chandralekha Singh, University of Pittsburgh

"Interactive video tutorials for enhancing problem solving, reasoning, and meta-cognitive skills of introductory physics students" (Contributed Poster)

We discuss the development and assessment of interactive video-tutorial based problems to help introductory physics students learn effective problem-solving heuristics. Students learn problem solving strategies using concrete examples in an interactive environment. Students are required to solve sub-problems (research-guided multiple-choice questions) to show their level of understanding at every stage of problem solving. Each incorrect response directs students to a short video. Students also have the option of watching additional videos which demostrate and exemplify a particular problem solving stage, such as how to perform qualitative analysis. The interactive video tutorials will provide students scaffolding support and help them view the problem solving process as an opportunity for knowledge and skill acquisition rather than a ``plug and chug" chore or guessing task.

Steven R. Sommer, Rebecca S. Lindell, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

"Accounting for Errors in Model Analysis Theory: A Numerical Approach" (Contributed Poster)

By studying the patterns of a group of individualsí responses to a series of multiple-choice questions, researchers can utilize Model Analysis Theory to create a probability distribution of mental models for a student population. The eigenanalysis of this distribution yields information about what mental models the students possess, as well as how consistently they utilize said mental models. Although the theory considers the probabilistic distribution to be fundamental, there exists opportunities for random errors to occur. In this paper we will discuss a numerical approach for mathematically accounting for these random errors. As an example of this methodology, analysis of data obtained from the Lunar Phases Concept Inventory will be presented. Limitations and applicability of this numerical approach will be discussed.

Stephen R Stonebraker, Lei Bao, Ohio State University

"Comparing Grades And Behavior Under A Flexible Homework System" (Contributed Poster)

In Fall 2002, our group modified the homework system in the first course of our calculus-based introductory sequence. As reported at the winter meeting [1, 2], the two primary features of this system are that the students are allowed to pick which problems to submit from a large pool of choices, and that full solutions to some problems are posted before the due date. In this poster we discuss types of behavior among students of different achievement levels, such as how many of the available problems the students read, how much time they spend studying posted solutions, and what sorts of problems they prefer to submit.

[1] Stonebraker and Sadaghiani, "Effects Of Increased Freedom In Homework Assignments", 126th AAPT National Meeting (2003).

[2] Stonebraker, Sadaghiani, and Bao, "Student Response To Completeness Of Teacher-Provided National Meeting (2003).

Andy Terrel, Beth Ann Thacker, Texas Tech University

"Exploring the structure and dynamics of students' reasoning during interviews on topics in modern physics" (Part of Targeted Poster Session xA)

Knowledge structures that students assemble to explain physical phenomena have been proposed to consist of knowledge elements (building blocks) of various grain sizes. We have analyzed interviews of students in a modern physics class to see if we can identify knowledge elements of various types and grain sizes that students use in an attempt to construct a coherent knowledge structure. We also examine the process by which students assemble various knowledge elements, to see if we can gain insight into the dynamics of knowledge construction, focusing on the context and cues that trigger various cognitive elements.

Thomas C. Thaden-Koch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Robert J. Dufresne, William J. Gerace, Jose P. Mestre, William J. Leonard, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

"A Coordination Class Analysis of Judgments about Animated Motion" (Contributed Poster)

The coordination class construct (CCC), invented by diSessa and Sherin in an effort to clarify what it means to learn and use scientific concepts, has not seen wide use. In this study, interviews with college students were analyzed in terms of the CCC. Students judged the realism of computer animations depicting balls rolling on a pair of tracks. When only one ball was presented, most students focused on the presence or absence of realistic speed changes. Adding a second ball drastically changed the judgments of students taking introductory physics; non-physics students were affected much less strongly. Ingredients of student decision-making were successfully explained with the CCC. Patterns of coordination were found; these patterns were able to account for patterns of judgment. Many students reached judgments contrary to their appropriate expectations about realistic motion by making inaccurate observations about animations, or by inappropriately adjusting observations or expectations during the decision-making process.

John Thompson, University of Maine

"Promoting understanding of teaching and learning in physics: Graduate courses in physics education research" (Invited Talk, 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.

Jonathon Tuminaro, Edward F. Redish, University of Maryland

"Students' misuses of appropriate knowledge during problem solving" (Contributed Poster)

Most instructors in physics agree that the majority of introductory, algebra-based physics students perform poorly on mathematical problem solving tasks in physics, but there are at least two possible distinct reasons for this poor performance: (1) Students simply lack the mathematical skills needed to solve problems in physics. (2) Students do not know how to apply the mathematical skills they have to particular problem situations in physics. Most physics faculty assume that the lack of mathematical skills is the problem. We will present evidence that suggests a major challenge for the introductory, algebra-based students and the major source of their errors stems from their inability to apply the mathematical knowledge they have or to interpret that knowledge in a physical context.

Dave Van Domelen, Kansas State University

“Pencil and Paper Pitfalls - An Example” (Part of Targeted Poster Session xF)

The Problem Decomposition Diagnostic was developed in 1998-2000 as an attempt at an objective test of certain aspects of problem-solving skills. However, while reasonably good results were obtained, the project was abandoned, largely due to some of the inherent difficulties in the development of such an instrument. The PDD's development and the reasons for its abandonment will be presented.

DJ Wagner, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Grove City College; JJ Rivera, Fran Mateycik, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Sybillyn Jennings, Russell Sage College

"Probing student understanding of total internal reflection and optical fibers using Piaget-style interviews conducted both face-to-face and electronically" (Contributed Poster)

The Science of Information Technology (ScIT) is a novel course introducing students to the physics underlying information technologies. We are currently expanding and improving the on-line curricular materials designed for this Rensselaer course to facilitate their use at other institutions. Our prototype module presents the principles of Reflection, Refraction, and Optical Fibers. To check whether the materials in this module speak to students' preconceptions, we interviewed 30 students (with diverse physics experience) and 2 physics faculty members, probing the participants' understandings of optical fibers and total internal reflection. 22 pre-instruction interviews, along with 8 post-instruction interviews, were conducted on-line using a Chat Room. The remainder of the interviews were conducted in a traditional face-to-face format. Both interfaces yielded meaningful information about students' conceptual frameworks. In this paper we discuss the conceptual and methodological findings of our study, and how we are using the results to refine the curricular materials. [1]

[1] RPI work was supported in part by NSF CCLI Program under grant DUE-0089399

Rasil Warnakulasooriya, Lei Bao, The Ohio State University

"Propositions and rules in students’ reasoning"

We give two examples from electricity and magnetism of how students’ reasoning is dependent on the context of the questions. In the first example concerning the grounding of a neutral metal in the presence of an external charge, we show how relations are preserved among two related questions. In the second example concerning the force on a charge in a magnetic field and current carrying wires, we show how the reasoning is dependent on the propositions used by students on a set of related questions. In all cases students seems to function with a set of procedural rules. It is also seen that the fixation on procedural rules has the ability to override the ‘reality’ of phenomena. The implication for instruction is that a set of related questions as discussed in the paper can be used to elucidate and address the fundamental limitations of students’ reasoning.

Benjamin D. Williams, San Diego State University

“Promoting student reflection in an introductory college physics course”* (Contributed Poster)

A major goal of the Physics for Elementary Teachers (PET) course is to help students be aware of, and monitor their own learning of ideas. This poster will present instances where curriculum designers attempted to promote student reflection. The poster will also display how these instances are related to one another. It is hoped that students will be encouraged to reflect on their own learning by 1) answering questions that ask them to compare their initial ideas and final ideas 2) analyzing video of young children struggling with the same physics concepts that the college students have been working on and 3) writing learning commentaries in which the student is asked to provide evidence from their own work of how their ideas changed.

*Supported by NSF grant #ESI-0096856

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

"Assessing Reflection on Practice: A problem solving perspective" (Roundtable Discussion)

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.

Xueli Zou, California State University, Chico

"Probing students' process skills and higher-level thinking" (Targeted Poster Session xD)

Several NSF-supported projects in physics education have established their goals to help students not only develop a solid conceptual foundation but also gain process skills and higher-level thinking abilities. For instance, one of the goals of the Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) is to help introductory physics students develop scientific investigation abilities. Investigating, developing, and evaluating the state of student meta-learning attitudes and skills is a goal of the Learning How To Learn Science project. The Remodeling University Physics aims to help introductory physics students acquire the modeling approach to problem solving.

A foundational challenge here is how to assess students' process skills and higher-level thinking, including questions as follows: How do we know that students possess the desired abilities and skills? What indicators do we have? What data can be used as evidence? How do we collect these data, analyze, and interpret them? This poster session will present some of ongoing studies related to these questions. The session will focus on the data collection and analytical approaches used to study the development of students' process skills and thinking abilities.

Additional details

Xueli Zou, California State University, Chico

"Identifying "naïve" indicators of students' abilities in conducting scientific inquiry experiments"* (Part of Targeted Poster Session xD)

The Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) is a learning system that helps students learn physics using strategies similar to those of practicing physicists. These strategies include observations of physical phenomena, identifying patterns in the data, devising explanations for the patterns and experimental testing of the proposed explanations. A set of experimental activities following the strategies have been developed and implemented in a calculus-based introductory physics course. Deficiencies of process skills and higher-level thinking for students to conduct those experiments have been observed. A study has been carried out to identify the deficiencies as "naïve" indicators of students' abilities in conducting the ISLE-type scientific inquiry experiments. This poster will present some data and discuss data analyses in detail.

*Supported in part by NSF DUE #0088906

Xueli Zou and Orion Davies, California State University, Chico

"Probing students' epistemological beliefs: A mixed data, design, and analysis approach" (Contributed Poster)

The Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) helps students learn physics using the same strategies that physicists use to construct their knowledge. These strategies include using experimental evidence for knowledge construction, model building, and experimental testing of models. How does ISLE affect students' epistemological beliefs, compared with traditional instruction? This poster will particularly discuss how ISLE students justify for their knowing (e.g., based on authority or evidence), probed by different types of measurement, including multiple-choice questions, open-ended convincing questions, students' journals, and individual interviews. Detailed data, research design, and data analysis will be shared.

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