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3 Physics Education Research as a Foundation for Improving Education
Pages 58-81

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From page 58...
... PER can thus be thought of as one of the pillars that support physics education: not sufficient on its own, but necessary for promoting effectiveness. Since the field of PER emerged in the 1970s, the PER community has made significant advances in understanding how students learn physics.
From page 59...
... Below, a very brief overview of PER sets the stage for a discussion of key findings and current priorities in six major areas of research. Taken together, these items constitute a research agenda that responds to pressing needs in undergraduate physics education and also encourages founda tional research that may drive improvements in courses and programs in the future.
From page 60...
... A series of articles published in the American Journal of Physics by winners of the AAPT's Oersted Medal and Millikan Award provides overviews of research and the develop ment of research-based instructional materials and methods and includes articles by Lillian McDermott, Edward Redish, Priscilla Laws, Fred Goldberg, Frederick Reif, Carl Wieman, and Alan Van Heuvelen, among others. KEY FINDINGS FROM PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH One of the most robust findings from PER is that traditional, lecture-style introductory courses have little long-lasting effect on students' erroneous notions about the physical world (McDermott, 1991; Hake, 1998)
From page 61...
... Experienced physics instructor and physics education researcher Redish discusses a vari ety of research-based tools for improving teaching and learning in introductory physics. After summarizing some of the relevant findings from cognitive science, the majority of the book is a discussion about what is involved in the implementation of 11 research-based instructional strategies.
From page 62...
... Classes that used Tutorials in Introductory Physics (McDermott et al., 1998, 2002) to supplement instruction in lecture and
From page 63...
... For example, Pollock and Finkelstein (2008) compared scores on conceptual questions on mid term exams for courses using Tutorials in Introductory Physics (McDermott et al., 1996, 2002)
From page 64...
... Pollock and N.D. ­ inkelstein, F Sustaining educational reforms in introductory physics, Physics Review Special Topics -- ­ Physics Education Research 4:010110, 2008, Copyright 2008, The American Physical Society.
From page 65...
... As in other areas of this report, this is not an attempt to include every topic that is or has been the subject of investigation. The choices reflect the report's overall emphasis on improving undergraduate physics education; thus, some areas that are more highly speculative are not discussed.
From page 66...
... Therefore, this report emphasizes that fundamental research is important, even if applications are not immediately apparent. Below are brief accounts of current priorities for the following areas: • Student conceptual understanding, reasoning, and problem solving; • How students learn how to learn -- in other words, how they learn how to "think like physicists"; • The impact of the physical and social environment on learning in physics courses;
From page 67...
... Areas of current and emerging emphasis include the following: • The nature and origins of conceptual difficulties in learning physics. Investiga tors are currently examining student understanding of physics topics at all levels of undergraduate instruction.
From page 68...
... In physics courses, in contrast to mathe­ atics courses, mathematical expressions and symbols have conceptual m meaning and describe relationships among physical quantities. Studying how students interpret and use those mathematical constructs provides a window into understanding how students attempt to solve problems (Sherin, 1996, 2001)
From page 69...
... showing evidence of lasting benefits of conceptual understanding for students who took a reformed introductory physics course in electricity and magnetism using Tutorials in Introductory Physics (McDermott et al., 2002) : In their junior year, students who had used the tutorials as freshmen scored significantly higher on a conceptual exam than students who had not.
From page 70...
... Abundant evidence from surveys, interviews, and observations of students in introductory courses shows that most students think of learning physics as a ­matter of remembering and rehearsing facts, formulas, and computational techniques (Adams et al., 2006; Halloun and Hestenes, 1998; Hammer, 1994; Kortemeyer, 2007; May and Etkina, 2002; Van Heuvelen, 1991)
From page 71...
... . Cooperative group-learning instructional environments have been shown to be capable of improving student learning for a broad range of students and are an important component of many PER-based instructional strategies.
From page 72...
... Research on physics teacher preparation has proven to be challenging, due to the relatively small number of programs that prepare physics teachers specifically (National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics, 2013) ; a lack of consensus on how to determine high-quality teaching and teacher preparation (NRC, 2010)
From page 73...
... The tremendous impact of the few nationally normed assessment instruments currently available underscores the imperative for education researchers to develop and validate assessments that are easy for nonspecialists to administer and inter pret. It is particularly important to develop ways to assess problem-solving ability, critical thinking in physics, scientific communication skills, student engagement, and so on, as well as developing assessments for other desirable objectives, such as predicting future learning or measuring teacher or TA preparation.
From page 74...
... With respect to introductory algebra and calculus-based physics, currently almost all physics faculty (87 percent) say that they are familiar with one or more PER based instructional strategy, and approximately half (48 percent)
From page 75...
... On this foundation the field is poised to help address the urgent problems facing physics education identified in this document. However, a number of practical challenges, some of them common to all research fields and others specific to discipline-based education research, threaten to hinder progress.
From page 76...
... Physical Review Special Topics -- Physics Education Research 6:010106. Brookes, D.T., Ross, B.H., and Mestre, J.P.
From page 77...
... Physical Review Special Topics -- Physics Education Research 6:020110. Etkina, E., and Van Heuvelen, A
From page 78...
... Physical Review Special Topics -- Physics Education Research 5:010101.
From page 79...
... Physical Review Special Topics -- Physics Education Research 6:020121. McKinnon, J.W., and Renner, J.W.
From page 80...
... Physical Review Special Topics -- Physics Education Research 8:010106. National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics.
From page 81...
... Physical Review Special Topics -- Physics Education Research 3:020101. Van Heuvelen, A


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