Physics Education Research Group completed yet another productive year.
In addition to the ongoing
projects, our group recently secured funding for three more projects.
Our ongoing projects include
collaborations with research groups at Carnegie Mellon, Alabama, Missouri, San
Diego State and Wisconsin.
Our research focused on the
themes of transfer of learning and the use of technology in teaching and
In the past year, the Physics Pathway
project, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon pursued two different research
and development efforts.
Both are based on sophisticated video database and
natural language technologies which were development at Carnegie Mellon.
The original Pathway (http://wwww.physicpathway.org)
provides teachers with just-in-time help on the pedagogy of physics.
It now can answer over 7500
questions asked by physics teachers.
This same technology is being used in
a research effort to understand how various components of modern technology can
be used to provide a tutoring environment for students.
The first steps in this effort are to develop and
test instructional materials for online use by high school students.
These materials use research based pedagogy to
integrate text and video of experiments with the video database and search
Ph.D. student Christopher Nakamura
developed and pilot tested these materials with students in high schools and
will be doing more testing in preparation for the research part of the project..
The Modern Miracle Medical Machines
project completed its final year of research, materials development and testing.
The focus of the final phase of the project was
investigating student understanding of the physics which is the basis of
wavefront abberometry – a relatively new diagnostic technique for the human eye.
In addition to investigating how students transfer
their learning from a standard learning of optics to wavefront abberometry, Ph.
D. student Dyan McBride completed research that led to a new technique of
characterizing student understanding that has the potential to be applied in
other projects. Dyan also developed and tested instructional materials with
introductory college students.
Dyan will be completing her Ph.D. research this year
before she moves on to a faculty position in Pennsylvania.
Post-doc Sytil Murphy is also
involved in this effort and will complete a research-based learning unit on
Magnet Resonance Imaging this summer.
Our collaboration with the faculty at
University of Alabama and San Diego State involves work on effects on student
learning and classroom practice of different approaches to teaching
University-level science courses taken by future elementary teachers.
Toward this goal Ph.D. student Mojgan Matloob and
post-doc Sytil Murphy collected data from several schools.
They are in the process of developing a rubric for
characterizing student understanding as gleaned from their responses to written
They will be further developing this
scheme and analyzing data from more schools in the years to come.
Over the past couple of years our
group has made forays into the important area of problem solving.
In collaboration with researchers at University of
Missouri, we developed and pilot-tested strategies to enable students in
introductory physics to become expert-like problem solvers.
Ph.D. student Fran Mateycik has completed
significant research in this area.
Last year, she developed a protocol for group
problem solving sessions that can help students develop better problem solving
She compared the performance of students who participated
in these sessions with the rest of the class and obtained some interesting and
She will be completing her
Ph.D. this coming year before she moves on to greener pastures.
Although the focus of our group has
been primarily on post-secondary and high school education, recently we have
been collaborating with the faculty at University of Wisconsin to develop and
test materials that will be used with middle school students.
The CoMPASS project creates a design-based learning
experience that integrates hands-on materials, hypertext and more recently
computer simulations to enable students to learn physics concepts.
Ph.D. student Jackie Chini has been working to adapt
the materials to instruction for undergraduate students.
She has been investigating how students apply their
physics as well as their everyday knowledge to the design tasks.
Jackie has also been
investigating the extent to which each of the various elements of the curriculum
has a role in student learning.
In addition to the ongoing projects
described above, our group recently secured funding to work on three new
The first project builds on the ongoing work on problem
The new project investigates students’ trajectories of
learning how to solve problems as they proceed from mathematics to physics to
The second project builds on the work done on the CoMPASS
project by focusing more specifically on the use of multiple representations and
its impact on student learning.
Finally, yet another project is targeted at learning
in the upper-division – particularly in the ‘Physical Measurement and
Instrumentation’ and ‘Advanced Lab’ courses.
These projects will certainly
be keeping us busy for a long time to come.
The work done by our group earned us
several peer-reviewed publications at conferences and journals this past year
including the Physics Education Research Conference,
National Association of
Research in Science Teaching as well as a host of contributed talks at the
national meetings of the American Association of Physics Teachers along with a
few invited talks.
We have had a few new additions to our
group this year.
Sytil Murphy and Ashok Mody joined us as post-docs
Sytil completed her Ph.D. in Physics with a specialization
in Experimental Optics from
Spartak Kalita finished his PhD in December and has joined the faculty at Moscow State University on the Black Sea. Todd Leif, Professor of Physics at Cloud County Community College, completed his PhD in November. Brian Adrian, former post-doc, completed work on the Pathway project and has relocated to San Diego.
Overall, it has been a promising year in terms of our research and new funding. We hope to explore new ideas and expand the horizons of Physics Education in the year ahead.
If you would like any additional information about any of our research, please go to our website at http://web.phys.ksu.edu/ or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.