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Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research: Puget Sound 2011 Invited Talks

Working Groups

Professional Collaborations: Vision for a Northwest Professional Exchange Program   -   Working Group

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM on Thursday, Mar 17, 2011

Given the wide range of environments in which we mentor undergraduate, graduate, and junior faculty researchers in PER, the nature of the expertise that we are able to help them develop can vary significantly at different institutions.  Each institution offers unique opportunities for conducting research and for helping students develop different types of research skills. The establishment of a Northwest Professional Exchange Program could help broaden the expertise of junior researchers and mitigate some of the barriers all researchers face when designing and conducting new investigations.  The charge of this working group is to sketch out a vision for such a program, reflecting on both the intended goals and the strengths of the regional community.

Research Collaborations: Open Questions to Be Answered in the Northwest   -   Working Group

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM on Thursday, Mar 17, 2011

As the field of physics education research has advanced considerably over the past few decades, many open questions have been exposed.  Given our regional community's diverse resources and areas of research expertise, we are in an excellent position to investigate some of these open questions.  The charge of this working group is to identify those open questions in PER that might best be explored through collaborations in the Northwest.  In particular, the group may wish to consider the following questions:  What strengths do we have locally?  What questions might we investigate most effectively given these strengths?  How might we benefit from using multiple approaches to investigating the same question?  What collaborations might be most productive in helping us answer these open questions?

The Northwest PER Canon in 5 Years: What Papers Should We Be Writing?   -   Working Group

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM on Thursday, Mar 17, 2011

At professional meetings in the past and, most recently, at Thursday's contributed poster session, we have had the opportunity to see the kinds of questions researchers in the Northwest are exploring, to learn about the diversity of techniques they are employing, and to gain some insight into their broader professional interests.  In the poster session, many individuals shared work that is in its early stages and may not yet be ready for more widespread dissemination.  Now that we have a gained a better sense for what we are doing as a community, how best might we document the high caliber work being conducted in our region?  The charge of this working group is to identify, as a community, some of the papers we would like to see written by one another in the next five years in order to advance both PER in the Northwest and the field as a whole.  

Parallel Targeted Sessions

Do you have to learn something simple before you can learn something complex?   -   Panel

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 19, 2011

Panel:  Corinne Manogue, Sandy Martinuk, and Rachel Scherr
Moderator:  MacKenzie Stetzer

PER-based curricula often focus on building up complex ideas from simple ideas.  We know that students do not think like experts and that it is often more productive to build on students' current ways of thinking rather than imposing complex expert ideas from above.  However, breaking an idea up into pieces that are too simple may encourage rote learning and make it difficult for students to see the motivation for the idea.  What is the ideal balance between the simple and the complex?  What are the implications of research that you or others have done for this balancing act?  What new research agendas could help shed light on this dichotomy of simple/complex?

What is the role of the "right answer" in helping students learn to reason?   -   Panel

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 19, 2011

Panel:  Eleanor Close, Ed Prather, and Peter Shaffer
Moderator:  Andrew Boudreaux

A goal of most PER-based curricula is to help students engage in sense-making rather than answer-making.  Researchers and curriculum developers with diverse perspectives share this goal, but have different approaches to achieving it.  Some recommend that instructors refrain from answering student questions directly in order to help students discover answers for themselves.  Others favor confirming correct answers as a tool for motivating students.  Still others expect students to develop their own perspective on the source of authority and how knowledge is generated.  How do these methods play out in the classroom?  What are some strengths and liabilities of each?  What research supports each of these methods?  What new research could be done to help us understand the mechanisms involved in each of these methods?