Physics Education
Kim Coy

The Physics Education Group continues to focus on the NSF-funded research project "Technology & Model Based Conceptual Assessment and Research: Students' Applications of Models in Physics and Mathematics." The goals of this research are to measure and trace changes in students' states of understanding through instruction, provide real-time feedback on students' states to students and instructors and develop tools that instructors can use in their classes to learn more about students' states. Some of the activities currently being undertaken to meet these goals include interviews on students' use and understanding of Newton's Second Law across contexts in mechanics and electricity and magnetism, student interviews and surveys on student mental models of sound, teaching experiments on student mental models of energy, and surveys and interviews on the effect of question order on student responses.

Sanjay Rebello has been working on his NSF-funded CAREER grant that is studying "Students' Mental Models, Learning and Transfer as a Guide to Application-Based Curriculum Development and Instruction." The goals of this project are to investigate students' mental models about the physical principles underlying everyday devices, measuring the change of these models with instruction, measuring transfer of learning from the classroom to everyday contexts or from one everyday context to another and developing curriculum based on this research by addressing physics used in everyday devices. Interviews are being conducted on students' mental models working to explain the bicycle and some electrical appliances and simple circuits. This research will expand to include other devices that students use everyday and their understanding of physics as portrayed in popular media. Work will then begin on developing instructional units focused on a particular application and addressing multiple concepts.

In addition, Sanjay is conducting research with Andrew Bennett of the Math Department on an NSF-funded project, "Assessing Student Transfer and Retention of Learning in Math, Physics and Engineering Courses. " This project is designing assessment tools that address the materials students learn and their retention in core engineering science courses in math and physics, the level of understanding of the students (facts and procedures versus the broader picture) and to what extent the students can transfer what they have learned in these math and physics courses to their engineering courses. This research is utilizing online homework, student interviews and surveys to investigate students' conceptual understanding in math courses and investigating student transfer and retention of learning from Engineering Physics to Statics and Dynamics and Electromagnetic Theory.

Dr. Zollman has recently received funding on an exciting new project which is funded by a Digital Libraries grant at NSF. The Physics Teaching Web Advisory (Pathway) is creating a proof-of-concept demonstration of a new type of digital library for physics teaching. Combining Carnegie Mellon University's digital video library technology with pedagogical advances developed at Kansas State University and with materials contributed by master teachers, the Pathway concept goes beyond simply creating a collection of teaching and learning materials. It provides continuously improving assistance and expertise for teachers and students of all levels. Pathway builds on a unique collaboration between several longstanding research projects in digital video libraries, advanced distance learning technologies, collaboration technologies and nationally known experts in physics pedagogy and high quality content. Synthetic Interviews provide the teacher with an interface that is very similar to conversing with an expert. The video and other information are stored in a database that is presented when a teacher asks a question. Synthetic Interviews have been created for medical advice as well as "conversing with entertainment, sports and historical figures." Pathway will build on these experiences.

In personnel happenings, Paula Vetter Engelhardt joined the group as a research associate in August. Paula was previously a graduate student at North Carolina State University where she did her dissertation research on developing a multiple-choice diagnostic instrument called DIRECT which covers concepts related to simple direct current resistive circuits. She has spent the past four years with her family in Japan. In connection with the CAREER grant, she's currently working on investigating how students apply their physics understanding to everyday things such as bicycles. She is also using DIRECT to examine if the order in which questions are presented affects the overall performance on the test.

Dave Van Domelen is the new Director of Instructional Support. Dave comes to KSU from Michigan State University where he was an instructor/postdoc in the Lyman Briggs School. Dave received his Ph.D. Physics in 2000 from The Ohio State University. He did his thesis on "Development of the Problem Decomposition Diagnostic." The department gave him time to become acclimated during the fall but this spring he will begin teaching classes as well.

Graduate students Wally Axmann, Alice Churukian and Seunghee Lee finished their PhDs and Zdeslav Hrepic finished his Masters during 2002. Wally is currently an instructor at Wichita State University. Alice is a Juliana Wilson Thompson Visiting Assistant Professor at Wooster College. Seunghee Lee is taking a break from classes and work while her husband Jae-Hie Cho is working as a postdoc for Bruce Law here in the department. Zdeslav Hrepic has begun working on his Ph.D. research in Science Education under Dr. Zollman's supervision. Alicia Allbaugh is beginning to fine-tune her research and is writing her thesis in anticipation of a May graduation.

We are preparing to move a new group of graduate students in during the fall of 2003 as they move on to the research portions of their studies instead of spending all of those hours grading and teaching in the classrooms! We have the following students joining our group --- Edgar Corpuz (MS from De Le Salle University in The Philippines), Lili Cui (MA from Heifei Univ. of Technology in China), Corey Gerving (BS from the U.S. Military Academy,) Arifa Habib (MS from Lahore College for Women in Pakistan), Oppress Makhafula (M.Sc. from the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe) and Darryl Ozimek (BS from Clarion University).

Additional information about the group is available at http://www.phys.ksu.edu/perg/.