Description: powercat.jpgDescription: nsf-logo.gifChanges in Studentsí Epistemologies

During Introductory Physics Instruction

by Timothy D. Brown

Advisors:  Eleanor C. Sayre, Paul W. Irving

Kansas State University†††††††† Physics Department †††††††††††††† REU Program


This program is funded by the National Science Foundation through grant number PHY-1157044.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Welcome to my webpage.  This page summarizes my experience participating in the Physics Education Research (PER) group at KSUís physics REU during Summer 2012. My research project, which was advised by and built off of much of the previous work done by Ellie Sayre, focused on how the extent to which students identify as physicists informs their views on knowledge, and on how the sophistication of these knowledge views change during basic-level physics instruction. Ellieís post-doc Paul Irving was also instrumental in giving me feedback on my project.

Below, I briefly describe the project in the Overview, with a much more detailed summary in the Research Description, and also post my REU Presentations and the Poster summarizing my findings, which I presented at the PERC 2012 conference. Scroll all the way down to learn more About Me.  Finally, I've included some Useful Links.  Hereís a page of my posting.  See my new bookmark. 

Project Overview:  Previous PER studies have found a correlation between the sophistication of studentsí knowledge beliefs and their mastery of physics topics: those with more ďexpertĒ beliefs tend to retain a higher mastery of the physics content, able to transfer this understanding to many different contexts. This research led to several studies on how physics instruction affects the development of studentsí knowledge beliefs. These studies, using a pre/post testing method with agree-disagree surveys, suggest that the knowledge beliefs become more novice after physics instruction.

Our method, the Response Curves Method, tests the robustness of this result by performing weekly data collections, allowing us to examine trends over time throughout the semester. Graphical analysis, and classical statistical regression can tell us whether studentsí beliefs are really becoming less sophisticated during physics instruction, and how the beliefs are coordinated with certain demographics groups.  

Research Description:  Click here to download a detailed summary of my research in pdf format.

REU PresentationClick below to download my biweekly REU powerpoint presentations.

Poster: Click here to download the poster I presented at PERC 2012

About Me:  At the time of this writing I am a rising junior studying Electronics within the Engineering Physics major at the University of Tulsa. Besides physics, I have a strong interest in music and remain involved as a flautist in my schoolís band, and in engineering, which expresses itself as my involvement in Engineers without Borders. I also love the interconnections between mathematics and physics, and my motherís job teaching and my dadís constant inquiry into the physics I do has been a major factor in my interest in teaching, hence my choice of a PER project this summer. When Iím not doing physics, Iím reading or watching movies or doing improvisational comedy with my schoolís troupe.

Useful Links

These sites should help to orient the reader within the larger physics/ PER community:

American Physical Society Statements on Ethics

American Institute of Physics

My Research group's home page

Previous Versions:



Created 3 August 2012