Hatzikiriakou Metallidou - IJSME 2007

Teaching Deductive Reasoning to Pre-service Teachers: Promises and Constraints
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education

Kostas Hatzikiriakou and Panayiota Metallidou
Elementary Education, University of Thessaly, Argonafton & Filellinon, Volos, 38221, Greece
Kostas Hatzikiriakou
Email: kxatzkyr@uth.gr

Received: 22 June 2006 Accepted: 13 November 2007 Published online: 25 December 2007

This paper broadly addresses the question of whether university students whose major does not require expertise in logic can improve their ability in deductive reasoning by taking an introductory course in logic. In particular, our study aims to evaluate a course in deductive logic offered by one of the authors in a department of elementary education. Two experiments were conducted by using a pretest-posttest design with an experimental and a control group as well as a follow-up test after 6 months on the experimental group. The results of the analyses showed that the course mainly succeeded in strengthening students’ general logical ability in the experimental group and these gains were retained 6 months later in the follow-up test. Promises and constraints of the study are discussed in the educational context.

Key words arguments - deductive reasoning - logical thinking - pre-service teachers - tableau method - truth tables - Venn diagrams

The names of the authors are listed alphabetically.


Baviskar Hartle Whitney - IJSE 2007

Essential Criteria to Characterize Constructivist Teaching: Derived from a review of the literature and applied to five constructivist-teaching method articles
International Journal of Science Education

Sandhya N. Baviskar; R. Todd Hartle; Tiffany Whitney
Idaho State University, USA

First Published on: 18 December 2007

Constructivism is an important theory of learning that is used to guide the development of new teaching methods, particularly in science education. However, because it is a theory of learning and not of teaching, constructivism is often either misused or misunderstood. Here we describe the four essential features of constructivism: eliciting prior knowledge, creating cognitive dissonance, application of new knowledge with feedback, and reflection on learning. We then use the criteria we developed to evaluate five representative published articles that claim to describe and test constructivist teaching methods. Of these five articles, we demonstrate that three do not adhere to the constructivist criteria, whereas two provide strong examples of how constructivism can be employed as a teaching method. We suggest that application of the four essential criteria will be a useful tool for all professional educators who plan to implement or evaluate constructivist teaching methods.

DOI: 10.1080/09500690701731121


Hamza Wickman - Science Education 2008

Describing and analyzing learning in action: An empirical study of the importance of misconceptions in learning science
Sci Ed 92:141-164, 2008

Karim M. Hamza *, Per-Olof Wickman
Department of Curriculum Studies and Communication, Stockholm Institute of Education, SE-100 26 Stockholm, Sweden
email: Karim M. Hamza (karim.hamza@lhs.se)
*Correspondence to Karim M. Hamza, Department of Curriculum Studies and Communication, Stockholm Institute of Education, SE-100 26 Stockholm, Sweden

This study is part of the project How Can Teachers Aid Students Towards Scientific Reasoning funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Although misconceptions in science have been established in interview studies, their role during the learning process is poorly examined. In this paper, we use results from a classroom study to analyze to what extent nonscientific ideas in electrochemistry that students report in interviews enter into their learning in a more authentic setting. We audio-recorded talk between eight pairs of Swedish upper secondary students during a practical on electrochemical cells. Learning was operationalized on a discursive level as a description of what students do and say when taking part in an activity. This enabled an analysis of how encounters with misconceptions influenced the development of students' reasoning, compared to other encounters during the learning experience. Misconceptions did not constrain the development of students' reasoning. Rather, their reasoning developed in response to the contingencies of the specific situation. When misconceptions were encountered, they appeared as alternatives and questions not actively defended. Sometimes, encounters with these misconceptions were generative of the students' reasoning. The results indicate that demonstrating misconceptions in interviews is not enough to assume that they interfere with learning in other contexts. Educational implications and future lines of research based on these findings and on the methodology applied are discussed. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Received: 28 November 2006; Revised: 2 July 2007; Accepted: 2 July 2007

DOI: 10.1002/sce.20233

Roth Tobin Ritchie - Science Education 2008

Time and temporality as mediators of science learning

Wolff-Michael Roth 1 *, Kenneth Tobin 2, Stephen M. Ritchie 3
1Applied Cognitive Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8W 3N4, Canada
2Urban Education, Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY 10016-4309, USA
3Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Q'ld 4059, Australia
email: Wolff-Michael Roth (mroth@uvic.ca)
*Correspondence to Wolff-Michael Roth, Applied Cognitive Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8W 3N4, Canada

Few studies have focused on understanding how teaching and learning in classrooms are mediated by other dimensions of the organizational systems of which education is an integral part. Our 7-year ethnographic study of an urban high school shows how time and temporality constitute key practical and theoretical resources to the actors in the cultural organization of schools, a product of transactions involving individuals and artifacts that traverse multiple cultural fields, each with its own distinctive structures. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 92:115-140, 2008

Received: 6 May 2007; Revised: 17 July 2007; Accepted: 18 July 2007

DOI: 10.1002/sce.20238

Robinett - arxiv.org 2007

Using Physics to Learn Mathematica to Do Physics: From Homework Problems
to Research Examples


R. W. Robinett
Fri, 14 Dec 2007 14:22:39 GMT (182kb)

We describe the development of a junior-senior level course for Physics majors designed to teach Mathematica skills in support of their undergraduate coursework, but also to introduce students to modern research level results. Standard introductory and intermediate level Physics homework-style problems are used to teach Mathematica commands and programming methods, which are then applied, in turn, to more sophisticated problems in some of the core undergraduate subjects, along with making contact with recent research papers in a variety of fields.

(this paper doesn't seem to be PER, but Robinett is the co-author of the QMVI, and this paper can be filtered through the perspectives provided by Bing and Redish - arxiv.org 2007.)


Henderson Yerushalmi Kuo Heller Heller - Phys Rev 2007

Physics faculty beliefs and values about the teaching and learning of problem solving. II. Procedures for measurement and analysis

Charles Henderson *
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008, USA
Edit Yerushalmi *
Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, 76100
Vince H. Kuo †, Kenneth Heller, and Patricia Heller
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA

Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research
Received 28 October 2005; published 12 December 2007

To identify and describe the basis upon which instructors make curricular and pedagogical decisions, we have developed an artifact-based interview and an analysis technique based on multilayered concept maps. The policy capturing technique used in the interview asks instructors to make judgments about concrete instructional artifacts similar to those they likely encounter in their teaching environment. The analysis procedure alternatively employs both an a priori systems view analysis and an emergent categorization to construct a multilayered concept map, which is a hierarchically arranged set of concept maps where child maps include more details than parent maps. Although our goal was to develop a model of physics faculty beliefs about the teaching and learning of problem solving in the context of an introductory calculus-based physics course, the techniques described here are applicable to a variety of situations in which instructors make decisions that influence teaching and learning.

©2007 The American Physical Society

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v3/e020110
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.3.020110
PACS: 01.40.Fk, 01.40.G−, 01.40.J−, 01.50.Kw

* Previously at School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
† Present address: Department of Physics: Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, 80401, USA.

Yerushalmi Hendersen Heller Heller Kuo - Phys Rev 2007

Physics faculty beliefs and values about the teaching and learning of problem solving. I. Mapping the common core

E. Yerushalmi *
Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, 76100
C. Henderson *
Department of Physics, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008, USA
K. Heller, P. Heller, and V. Kuo †
School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA

Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research
Received 28 October 2005; published 12 December 2007

In higher education, instructors’ choices of both curricular material and pedagogy are determined by their beliefs about learning and teaching, the values of their profession, and perceived external constraints. Dissemination of research-based educational reforms is based on assumptions about that mental structure. This study reports the initial phase of an investigation of the beliefs and values of physics professors as they relate to the teaching and learning of problem solving in introductory physics. Based on an analysis of a series of structured interviews with six college physics faculty, a model of a common structure of such beliefs for all physics faculty teaching introductory physics was constructed. This preliminary model, when tested and modified by future research, can be used by curriculum developers to design materials, pedagogy, and professional development that gain acceptance among instructors.

©2007 The American Physical Society

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v3/e020109
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.3.020109
PACS: 01.40.Fk, 01.40.G−, 01.40.J−, 01.50.Kw

* Previously at School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
† Present address: Department of Physics, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, 80401, USA.

Walsh Howard Bowe - Phys Rev 2007

Phenomenographic study of students’ problem solving approaches in physics

Laura N. Walsh, Robert G. Howard, and Brian Bowe
Physics Education Research Group, School of Physics, Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street, Dublin 8, Ireland

Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research
Received 28 February 2007; published 12 December 2007

This paper describes ongoing research investigating student approaches to quantitative and qualitative problem solving in physics. This empirical study was conducted using a phenomenographic approach to analyze data from individual semistructured problem solving interviews with 22 introductory college physics students. The main result of the study is a hierarchical set of categories that describe the students’ problem solving approaches in the context of introductory physics.

©2007 The American Physical Society

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v3/e020108
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.3.020108
PACS: 01.40.Fk

(Laura Walsh flew in from Ireland to attend the 2005 Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research meeting, for those who might recognize the name...)


Bing Redish - arxiv.org 2007

Symbolic Manipulators Affect Mathematical Mindsets
Thomas J. Bing and Edward F. Redish

Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2007 16:57:24 GMT (202kb)

Symbolic calculators like Mathematica are becoming more commonplace among upper level physics students. The presence of such a powerful calculator can couple strongly to the type of mathematical reasoning students employ. It does not merely offer a convenient way to perform the computations students would have otherwise wanted to do by hand. This paper presents examples from the work of upper level physics majors where Mathematica plays an active role in focusing and sustaining their thought around calculation. These students still engage in powerful mathematical reasoning while they calculate but struggle because of the narrowed breadth of their thinking. Their reasoning is drawn into local attractors where they look to calculation schemes to resolve questions instead of, for example, mapping the mathematics to the physical system at hand. We model the influence of Mathematica as an integral part of the constant feedback that occurs in how students frame, and hence focus, their work.


Scherr Hammer - arxiv.org 2007

Student Behavior and Epistemological Framing: Examples from Collaborative Active-Learning Activities in Physics
Rachel E. Scherr and David Hammer


Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2007 03:25:00 GMT

Questions of participant understanding of the nature of an activity have been addressed in anthropology and sociolinguistics with the concepts of frames and framing. For example, a student may frame a learning activity as an opportunity for sensemaking or as an assignment to fill out a worksheet. The student's understanding of the nature of the activity affects what she notices, what knowledge she accesses, and how she thinks to act. Previous analyses have found evidence of framing primarily in linguistic markers associated with speech acts. In this paper, we show that there is useful evidence of framing in easily observed features of students' behavior. We apply this observational methodology to explore dynamics among behavior, framing, and the conceptual substance of student reasoning in the context of collaborative active-learning activities in an introductory university physics course.

(This paper has been submitted to Cognition and Instruction, the arxiv.org posting is of the preprint draft.)

Scherr - arxiv.org 2007

UPDATED: 2008 Jan 27: The final version of this paper (with all video attached) was published in the Physical Reviews. More information at Scherr - Phys Rev 2008.

Gesture analysis for physics education researchers
Rachel E. Scherr

Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2007 18:07:46 GMT (544kb)

Systematic observations of student gestures can not only fill in gaps in students' verbal expressions, but can also offer valuable information about student ideas, including their source, their novelty to the speaker, and their construction in real time. This paper provides a review of the research in gesture analysis that is most relevant to physics education researchers and illustrates gesture analysis for the purpose of better understanding student thinking about physics.

This paper has been accepted in the Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, and is published here in its preprint draft version.


Springuel Wittmann Thompson - Phys Rev 2007

Applying clustering to statistical analysis of student reasoning about two-dimensional kinematics

R. Padraic Springuel, Michael C. Wittmann, and John R. Thompson
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research, College of Education and Human Development, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA

Received 24 May 2007; published 3 December 2007

We use clustering, an analysis method not presently common to the physics education research community, to group and characterize student responses to written questions about two-dimensional kinematics. Previously, clustering has been used to analyze multiple-choice data; we analyze free-response data that includes both sketches of vectors and written elements. The primary goal of this paper is to describe the methodology itself; we include a brief overview of relevant results.

©2007 The American Physical Society

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v3/e020107
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.3.020107
PACS: 01.40.Fk, 01.40.gf


Yilmaz-Tuzun and Topcu - IJSE 2008

Relationships among Preservice Science Teachers' Epistemological Beliefs, Epistemological World Views, and Self-efficacy Beliefs

Ozgul Yilmaz-Tuzun (a); Mustafa Sami Topcu (b)

(a) Middle East Technical University, Turkey
(b) Yuzuncu Yil Universitesi, Turkey

DOI: 10.1080/09500690601185113
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Issue 1 January 2008 , pages 65 - 85
First Published on: 23 May 2007

This study discusses preservice elementary science teachers' (PSTs) epistemological beliefs and the relationships among their epistemological beliefs, epistemological world views, and self-efficacy beliefs. Four hundred and twenty-nine PSTs who were enrolled in five large universities completed the Schommer Epistemological Questionnaire (SEQ), the Epistemological World Views Scale, andthe Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument. Factor analysis results revealed four factors for the SEQ. These factors were Innate Ability, Simple Knowledge, Certain Knowledge, and Omniscient authority. Multiple regression analysis suggests that for "Innate Ability" factor scores, three of the predictor variables - self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, and world view - contributed significantly to the model. For "Simple Knowledge," only one predictor variable - epistemological world view - contributed significantly to the model. For "Certain Knowledge" factor scores, only one predictor variable - outcome expectancy - contributed significantly to the model. None of the predictor variables significantly contributed to the "Omniscient Authority" factor scores. Results revealed that in Turkish culture, PSTs' epistemological beliefs support the multidimensional theory. In addition, while PSTs developed more sophisticated beliefs in some of the SEQ dimensions, they had less sophisticated beliefs in other dimensions. Also PSTs indicated that, when they want to teach science with student-centered methods, they believed that they would be successful only if their students memorize the scientific concepts and facts.

Ehrlén - IJSE 2008

Children's Understanding of Globes as a Model of the Earth: A problem of contextualizing

Karin Ehrlén
Stockholm University, Sweden
DOI: 10.1080/09500690601185956

International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Issue 2 February 2008 , pages 221 - 238

Visual representations play an important role in science teaching. The way in which visual representations may help children to acquire scientific concepts is a crucial test in the debate between constructivist and socio-cultural oriented researchers. In this paper, the question is addressed as a problem of how to contextualize conceptions and explanations in cognitive frameworks and visual descriptions in cultural contexts. Eleven children aged 6-8 years were interviewed in the presence of a globe. Those children who expressed views of the Earth that deviated from the culturally accepted view did not show any difficulties in combining these different ideas with the globe model. The way that this is possible is explained using a model of conceptual development as a process of differentiation between contexts and frameworks. The child must differentiate not only between the Earth as an area of flat ground in a common-sense framework and the planet Earth in a theoretical framework, but also between these frameworks and the framework of the representation. It is suggested that a differentiation on a meta-level is needed to distinguish which problems and explanations belong to which cognitive framework. In addition, the children must contextualize the visual description of the Earth in the globe in a cultural context to discern which mode of representation is used.

Snowman - arxiv.org 2007

Quantifying Student Effort and Class Involvement in the Introductory Higher Education Science Classroom

Daniel P. Snowman
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2007 19:38:39 GMT (6kb)

This note details a minimal effort program, Cash Participation, that
quantifies class participation while increasing class energy, decreasing
student apathy and removing student embraced anonymity.


Smith Wittmann - arxiv.org 2007

Toward a more effective use of the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation
Trevor I. Smith, Michael C. Wittmann

contact: Trevor.I.Smith@umit.maine.edu and wittmann@umit.maine.edu

(Submitted on 12 Nov 2007)
We suggest one redefinition of common clusters of questions used to analyze student responses on the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE). Our goal is to move beyond the expert/novice analysis of student learning based on pre-/post-testing and the correctness of responses (either on the overall test or on clusters of questions defined solely by content). We base our work in resource theory, taking special note of the context dependence of questions with seemingly similar physics content. We analyze clusters in ways that allow the most common incorrect answers to give as much, or more, information as the correctness of responses in that cluster. Using this dichotomy of correct and most common incorrect models (in clusters defined by common models) we can apply Model Analysis to help better map a class's thinking about the physics on the FMCE. We give one example of such an analysis as a proof-of-concept of our approach.

Comments: 13 pages, 7 figures, submitted to Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res
Subjects: Physics Education (physics.ed-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:0711.1838v1 [physics.ed-ph]
Submission history

[v1] Mon, 12 Nov 2007 18:11:32 GMT (250kb,D)


NSF division - DRL

This isn't an announcement of a new journal article, it's a post about an NSF division that many of us should be aware of. The
Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings has the Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) , Discovery Research K-12 (DR- K12), and more. Very cool. Check it out the link more information.


Lawrenz, Huffman, Gravely - JRST 2007

Impact of the collaboratives for excellence in teacher preparation program
© 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 1348-1369, 2007
Frances Lawrenz 1 *, Douglas Huffman 2, Amy Gravely 1
1University of Minnesota
2University of Kansas
email: Frances Lawrenz (Lawrenz@umn.edu)
*Correspondence to Frances Lawrenz, University of Minnesota

Funded by:
National Science Foundation; Grant Number: DUE 9908902

This study investigated the national impact of the Collaboratives for Excellence in Teacher Preparation program (CETP). Impact of the program was examined in two different settings: institutions of higher education, and K-12 science and mathematics classrooms. The focus of this study was to determine the impact of the CETP program on the institutional culture and collaborations among faculty, and changes in instructional techniques used by higher education faculty and K-12 teachers. Data were gathered over a 3-year period from 12 different CETP projects. At the higher education level faculty reported more collaboration and a slight increase in the use of standard-based teaching. At the K-12 level, students of teachers who were prepared by the CETP program viewed classroom instruction as slightly more standards-based than comparable students of non-CETP prepared teachers. Additionally, external observers rated classes taught by teachers educated in CETP projects as more standards-based than classes taught by non-CETP teachers educated in other programs. Implications of the results for national large-scale reform of science and mathematics education are discussed.

Lotter, Harwood, Bonner - JRST 2007

The influence of core teaching conceptions on teachers' use of inquiry teaching practices
© 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 1318-1347, 2007

Christine Lotter 1 *, William S. Harwood 2, J. José Bonner 3
1University of South Carolina, Instruction and Teacher Education, 820 South Main Street, Wardlaw 223, Columbia, SC 29208
2University of Northern Iowa, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Cedar Falls, IA 50614
3Indiana University, Department of Biology, Bloomington, IN 47405
email: Christine Lotter (lotter@gwm.sc.edu)
*Correspondence to Christine Lotter, University of South Carolina, Instruction and Teacher Education, 820 South Main Street, Wardlaw 223, Columbia, SC 29208.

Funded by:
Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Grant Number: 52003732
a Maris M. Proffitt & Mary Higgins Proffitt Endowment Grant; Grant Number: 2940215

This article investigates three teachers' conceptions and use of inquiry-based instructional strategies throughout a professional development program. The professional development program consisted of a 2-week summer inquiry institute and research experience in university scientists' laboratories, as well as three academic year workshops. Insights gained from an in-depth study of these three secondary teachers resulted in a model of teacher conceptions that can be used to direct future inquiry professional development. Teachers' conceptions of inquiry teaching were established through intensive case-study research that incorporated extensive classroom observations and interviews. Through their participation in the professional development experience, the teachers gained a deeper understanding of how to implement inquiry practices in their classrooms. The teachers gained confidence and practice with inquiry methods through developing and presenting their institute-developed inquiry lessons, through observing other teachers' lessons, and participating as students in the workshop inquiry activities. Data analysis revealed that a set of four core conceptions guided the teachers' use of inquiry-based practices in their classrooms. The teachers' conceptions of science, their students, effective teaching practices, and the purpose of education influenced the type and amount of inquiry instruction performed in the high school classrooms. The research findings suggest that to be successful inquiry professional development must not only teach inquiry knowledge, but it must also assess and address teachers' core teaching conceptions.

Kang - JRST 2007

Elementary teachers' epistemological and ontological understanding of teaching for conceptual learning
© 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 1292-1317, 2007

Nam-Hwa Kang
Department of Science and Mathematics Education, Oregon State University, 239 Weniger Hall, Corvallis, Oregon 97331
email: Nam-Hwa Kang (kangn@science.oregonstate.edu)

The purpose of this study was to examine the ways in which elementary teachers applied their understanding of conceptual learning and teaching to their instructional practices as they became knowledgeable about conceptual change pedagogy. Teachers' various ways to interpret and utilize students' prior ideas were analyzed in both epistemological and ontological dimensions of learning. A total of 14 in-service elementary teachers conducted an 8-week-long inquiry into students' conceptual learning as a professional development course project. Major data sources included the teachers' reports on their students' prior ideas, lesson plans with justifications, student performance artifacts, video-recorded teaching episodes, and final reports on their analyses of student learning. The findings demonstrated three epistemologically distinct ways the teachers interpreted and utilized students' prior ideas. These supported Kinchin's epistemological categories of perspectives on teaching including positivist, misconceptions, and systems views. On the basis of Chi's and Thagard's theories of conceptual change, the teachers' ontological understanding of conceptual learning was differentiated in two ways. Some teachers taught a unit to change the ontological nature of student ideas, whereas the others taught a unit within the same ontological categories of student ideas. The findings about teachers' various ways of utilizing students' prior ideas in their instructional practices suggested a number of topics to be addressed in science teacher education such as methods of utilizing students' cognitive resources, strategies for purposeful use of counter-evidence, and understanding of ontological demands of learning. Future research questions were suggested.


An awesome post title about believing the possible

This blog post title is one of the best I've read in a long time:

It's possible that your stupidity will affect your ability to understand this post

I will let you read it yourself, and will only point out why I am putting this in a PER articles blog. The point is that students come to our questions with immense amounts of information about likelihoods of events, and, based on this article, their beliefs tinge how they read the questions we ask them. This is a major result, obvious in some ways, but subtle in others. What I'm getting at is shown in the insomnia/deafness graph, which I won't explain because you can go and read the article yourself.


Buick - EJP 2007

Investigating the correlation between mathematical pre-knowledge and learning gains in service physics
Eur. J. Phys. 28 1073-1080
J M Buick
Physics and Electronics, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
E-mail: jbuick at une dot edu dot au

An investigation was undertaken into the relationship between the initial mathematics knowledge of students and their success in a service physics course aimed at science students who require an understanding of basic physics concepts but who are not studying for a physics major. An appropriate method for performing this investigation was developed, implemented and analysed. Results from a small, self-selected sample indicated a correlation between the initial mathematical knowledge of students and learning gains obtained during the course.

Print publication: Issue 6 (November 2007)
Received 10 July 2007
Published 7 September 2007

This paper recently went behind the EJP wall (they only allow open access in the first month of publication), but JM Buick pointed out to me that he has a page of publications listed at his web site. You can contact him for more information, if you wish.


Taber - IJSE 2007

Conceptual Resources for Learning Science: Issues of transience and grain-size in cognition and cognitive structure
International Journal of Science Education (1):1-27. (2008).
Keith Taber
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, UK

Many studies into learners' ideas in science have reported that aspects of learners' thinking can be represented in terms of entities described in such terms as alternative conceptions or conceptual frameworks, which are considered to describe relatively stable aspects of conceptual knowledge that are represented in the learner's memory and accessed in certain contexts. Other researchers have suggested that learners' ideas elicited in research are often better understood as labile constructions formed in response to probes and generated from more elementary conceptual resources (e.g. phenomenological primitives or 'p-prims'). This 'knowledge-in-pieces perspective' (largely developed from studies of student thinking about physics topics), and the 'alternative conceptions perspective', suggests different pedagogic approaches. The present paper discusses issues raised by this area of work. Firstly, a model of cognition is considered within which the 'knowledge-in-pieces' and 'alternative conceptions' perspectives co-exist. Secondly, this model is explored in terms of whether such a synthesis could offer fruitful insights by considering some candidate p-prims from chemistry education. Finally, areas for developing testable predictions are outlined, to show how such a model can be a 'refutable variant' of a progressive research programme in learning science.

Extra information:
This paper cites David Hammer and Andrea diSessa a lot, building a connection between a p-prims/resources/knowledge-in-pieces approach (quotinga across the literature) and the alternative conceptions world (quoting mainly from the 80s literature, I feel). For those interested in a continuation of Hammer's 1996 papers on "p-prims vs. misconceptions" or Scherr's "Modeling Student Reasoning" papers, this is a good read.

Bao - arxiv.org 2007

Dynamic Models of Learning and Education Measurement
arxiv.org posting

Lei Bao
(Submitted on 6 Oct 2007)

Pre-post testing is a commonly used method in physics education for evaluating students' achievement and or the effectiveness of teaching through a short period of instruction. A popular method to analyze pre-post testing results is the normalized gain first brought to the physics education community in wide use by R. Hake. In his analysis with thousands of students' pre-post test results, it has been observed that students having very different pretest scores tend to have similar normalized gains when going through similar types of instruction, i.e., classes with traditional instruction often have systematically lower gains than classes with research-based collaborative types of instruction. This feature allows researchers to investigate the effectiveness of instruction using data collected from classes with different initial states. However, the question of why the normalized gain has this feature and to what extend this feature will be valid is not well understood. Recently, there have been debates on what the normalized gain is actually measuring and concerns that the normalized gain lacks a probability framework comparing to other methods such as Item Response Theory (IRT). Motivated by searching for answers to these questions, a theoretical model about the dynamic process of learning have been developed, which leads to an explanatory interpretation of the features of the normalized gain. Further the model also connects well to other models and methods such as IRT and shows that the normalized gain does have a probabilistic framework but one different from what the IRT emphasizes. This paper will report the basic theoretical formalism of the new model and explore its applications in data modeling and analysis.

Comments: Theoretical Models of Education Measurement
Subjects: Physics Education (physics.ed-ph); Data Analysis, Statistics and Probability (physics.data-an)
Cite as: arXiv:0710.1375v1 [physics.ed-ph]

McKagan et al - arxiv.org 2007

Developing and Researching PhET simulations for Teaching Quantum Mechanics
arxiv.org posting

S. B. McKagan, K. K. Perkins, M. Dubson, C. Malley, S. Reid, R. LeMaster, C. E. Wieman
(Submitted on 27 Sep 2007)

Quantum mechanics is difficult to learn because it is counterintuitive, hard to visualize, mathematically challenging, and abstract. The Physics Education Technology (PhET) Project, known for its interactive computer simulations for teaching and learning physics, now includes 17 simulations on quantum mechanics designed to improve learning of this difficult subject. Our simulations include several key features that help students build mental models and intuitions about quantum mechanics: visual representations of abstract concepts and microscopic processes that cannot be directly observed, interactive environments that directly couple students' actions to animations, connections to everyday life, and efficient calculations so students can focus on the concepts rather than the math. Like all PhET simulations, these are developed using the results of education research and feedback from educators, and are tested in student interviews and classroom studies. This article provides an overview of the PhET quantum simulations and their development. We describe research demonstrating their effectiveness in helping students overcome well-known difficulties, build vivid mental models of quantum phenomena, and understand key concepts. We also share some insights about student thinking we have gained from our research on quantum simulations.

Comments: submitted to American Journal of Physics
Subjects: Physics Education (physics.ed-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:0709.4503v1 [physics.ed-ph]

Parnafes - JLS 2007

What Does "Fast" Mean? Understanding the Physical World Through Computational Representations
Orit Parnafes
School of Education, Tel-Aviv University

This article concerns the development of conceptual understanding of a physical phenomenon through the use of computational representations. It examines how students make sense of and interpret computational representations, and how their understanding of the represented physical phenomenon develops in this process. Eight studies were conducted, in which pairs of students were engaged in an exploratory activity of natural harmonic oscillation. They first explored physical oscillators (e.g., springs, pendulums) and then interacted with dynamic and interactive computational representations that represent aspects of natural harmonic oscillation. The analysis focuses on selected episodes demonstrating critical steps in the development of the students' understanding. It offers a detailed description of these steps and closely examines students' interaction with various features of the representations in order to identify the relations between use of representations and students' developing understanding. A theory of conceptual change, coordination class theory (diSessa & Sherin, 1998), is used to track the development process of students' understanding with representations. The detailed analysis aims to construct a model describing mechanisms of developing understanding through the mediation of computational representations. The significance of this study is in its close look at the detailed process of learning and conceptual change in computational environments.

Afra Osta Zoubeir - IJSME 2007

Students’ Alternative Conceptions about Electricity and Effect of Inquiry-Based Teaching Strategies
online first publication
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education
Nada Chatila Afra, Iman Osta and Wassim Zoubeir

Received: 16 August 2006 Accepted: 13 August 2007 Published online: 5 October 2007

Abstract This study attempted to investigate the alternative conceptions that a group of 12 Lebanese students in a grade 9 class hold about electricity. It also attempted to evaluate learning outcomes of implementing in that class an inquiry-based module for the acquisition of conceptual understanding of basic concepts in electricity. Fourteen mostly subjective tests were administered throughout the implementation phase of the inquiry-based module to assess the evolution of participants’ conceptions. The instrument DIRECT (Version 1.0) focusing on conceptual understanding was used as a post-instructional test to measure acquisition of understanding. The findings revealed that most of the alternative conceptions reported in literature were found amongst the participants. Results of the post-testing showed that the implemented inquiry-based approach was successful in enhancing participants’ conceptual understanding of the targeted DC circuit concepts.

Key words alternative conceptions - conceptual change - electricity - inquiry - physics teaching and learning

Savinainen and Viiri - IJSME 2007

The Force Concept Inventory as a Measure of Students Conceptual Coherence
Online first publication
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education

This paper has been accepted for publication and posted online, but has not yet been published in the journal itself. You'll have to negotiate for yourself (and with your library) how you gain access to it.

Received: 2 October 2006 Accepted: 17 July 2007 Published online: 11 October 2007

Abstract The Force Concept Inventory (FCI) is a multiple choice test designed to monitor students’ understanding of the conceptual domain of force and related kinematics (Hestenes et al. Physics Teacher 30:141–158 1992; Halloun et al., 1995, Online at http://modeling.asu.edu/R&E/Research.html). It has gained wide popularity among both researchers and physics instructors in the United States and elsewhere. The FCI has also been criticized, and its validity as a measure of the coherence of a student’s understanding of the force concept has been questioned. In this paper we provide a characterization of students’ conceptual coherence and a way to evaluate it using the FCI. We divide students’ conceptual coherence into three aspects: representational coherence (the ability to use multiple representations and move between them), contextual coherence (the ability to apply a concept across a variety of contexts), and conceptual framework coherence (the ability to fit related concepts together, i.e. to integrate and differentiate between them). Postinstruction FCI results and interview data from two Finnish high school groups (n=49 total) are discussed; the data provide evidence that the FCI can be used to evaluate students’ conceptual coherence—especially contextual coherence—of the force concept.

Key Words conceptual coherence - Force Concept Inventory - multiple representations - Newton’s laws - teaching force

Podolefsky Finkelstein - Phys Rev 2007

Noah and Noah in the Physics Review - Special Topics PER

Analogical scaffolding and the learning of abstract ideas in physics: Empirical studies
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 020104
Noah S. Podolefsky and Noah D. Finkelstein
Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA

Received 12 March 2007; published 14 September 2007

Previously, we proposed a model of student reasoning which combines the roles of representation, analogy, and layering of meaning—analogical scaffolding [Podolefsky and Finkelstein, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 010109 (2007)]. The present empirical studies build on this model to examine its utility and demonstrate the vital intertwining of representation, analogy, and conceptual learning in physics. In two studies of student reasoning using analogy, we show that representations couple to students’ existing prior knowledge and also lead to the dynamic formation of new knowledge. Students presented with abstract, concrete, or blended (both abstract and concrete) representations produced markedly different response patterns. In the first study, using analogies to scaffold understanding of electromagnetic (EM) waves, students in the blend group were more likely to reason productively about EM waves than students in the abstract group by as much as a factor of 3 (73% vs 24% correct, p=0.002 ). In the second study, examining representation use within one domain (sound waves), the blend group was more likely to reason productively about sound waves than the abstract group by as much as a factor of 2 (48% vs 23% correct, p=0.002 ). Using the analogical scaffolding model we examine when and why students succeed and fail to use analogies and interpret representations appropriately.

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v3/e020104
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.3.020104
PACS: 01.40.Fk

Smith and Wittmann - Phys Rev 2007

From the Physical Review - Special Topics Physics Education Research:

Comparing three methods for teaching Newton’s third law
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 020105 (2007)
Trevor I. Smith and Michael C. Wittmann
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Education and Human Development, Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA

Received 20 April 2006; revised 11 December 2006; published 18 October 2007
Although guided-inquiry methods for teaching introductory physics have been individually shown to be more effective at improving conceptual understanding than traditional lecture-style instruction, researchers in physics education have not studied differences among reform-based curricula in much detail. Several researchers have developed University of Washington–style tutorial materials, but the different curricula have not been compared against each other. Our study examines three tutorials designed to improve student understanding of Newton’s third law: the University of Washington’s Tutorials in Introductory Physics (TIP), the University of Maryland’s Activity-Based Tutorials (ABT), and the Open Source Tutorials (OST) also developed at the University of Maryland. Each tutorial was designed with different goals and agendas, and each employs different methods to help students understand the physics. We analyzed pretest and post-test data, including course examinations and data from the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE). Using both FMCE and course data, we find that students using the OST version of the tutorial perform better than students using either of the other two.

©2007 The American Physical Society

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v3/e020105
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.3.020105
PACS: 01.40.Fk, 01.40.G−, 01.40.gb

Karelina and Etkina - Phys Rev 2007

From the Physical Review - Special Topics Physics Education Research

Acting like a physicist: Student approach study to experimental design
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 020106
Anna Karelina and Eugenia Etkina
Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA

Received 16 April 2007; published 19 October 2007

National studies of science education have unanimously concluded that preparing our students for the demands of the 21st century workplace is one of the major goals. This paper describes a study of student activities in introductory college physics labs, which were designed to help students acquire abilities that are valuable in the workplace. In these labs [called Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) labs], students design their own experiments. Our previous studies have shown that students in these labs acquire scientific abilities such as the ability to design an experiment to solve a problem, the ability to collect and analyze data, the ability to evaluate assumptions and uncertainties, and the ability to communicate. These studies mostly concentrated on analyzing students’ writing, evaluated by specially designed scientific ability rubrics. Recently, we started to study whether the ISLE labs make students not only write like scientists but also engage in discussions and act like scientists while doing the labs. For example, do students plan an experiment, validate assumptions, evaluate results, and revise the experiment if necessary? A brief report of some of our findings that came from monitoring students’ activity during ISLE and nondesign labs was presented in the Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings. We found differences in student behavior and discussions that indicated that ISLE labs do in fact encourage a scientistlike approach to experimental design and promote high-quality discussions. This paper presents a full description of the study.

©2007 The American Physical Society

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRSTPER/v3/e020106
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.3.020106
PACS: 01.40.Fk, 01.40.gb, 01.50.Qb

Ates and Cataloglu, EJP 2007

For a short time only, you can access the following:

The effects of students' reasoning abilities on conceptual understandings and problem-solving skills in introductory mechanics
2007 Eur. J. Phys. 28 1161-1171
S Ates and E Cataloglu
Department of Physics Education, Abant Izzet Baysal University, 14280 Bolu, Turkey
E-mail: sates0@yahoo.com and erdat@ibu.edu.tr

The IOP (which publishes the European Journal of Physics) only gives access to newly published articles for 30 days. Get it quick, if you're interested in this topic.

Abstract. The purpose of this study was to determine if there are relationships among freshmen/first year students' reasoning abilities, conceptual understandings and problem-solving skills in introductory mechanics. The sample consisted of 165 freshmen science education prospective teachers (female = 86, male = 79; age range 17–21) who were enrolled in an introductory physics course. Data collection was done during the fall semesters in two successive years. At the beginning of each semester, the force concept inventory (FCI) and the classroom test of scientific reasoning (CTSR) were administered to assess students' initial understanding of basic concepts in mechanics and reasoning levels. After completing the course, the FCI and the mechanics baseline test (MBT) were administered. The results indicated that there was a significant difference in problem-solving skill test mean scores, as measured by the MBT, among concrete, formal and postformal reasoners. There were no significant differences in conceptual understanding levels of pre- and post-test mean scores, as measured by FCI, among the groups. The Benferroni post hoc comparison test revealed which set of reasoning levels showed significant difference for the MBT scores. No statistical difference between formal and postformal reasoners' mean scores was observed, while the mean scores between concrete and formal reasoners and concrete and postformal reasoners were statistically significantly different.

Print publication: Issue 6 (November 2007)
Received 29 July 2007, in final form 3 September 2007
Published 5 October 2007

(If the name of the second author sounds familiar to some, it's because this is the author of the Quantum Mechanics Visualization Instrument that Rick Robinett has talked about in past years. It's nice to see a new paper come out, years later, and in a different research area!)

My goals for a blog for PER articles

For years, I've posted messages to various mailing lists, including links to newly published articles that might be of interest to those of us who do physics education research (PER). Though this is nice, broadly speaking, it's a bit of a hassle for anyone else to get access to. If you're not on the mailing lists that are out there (PhysLrnr, for example), then you'll have a hard time finding out what is out there. And, though those mailing lists maintain archives, those are often difficult to work with, and so on. There is a place for a blog that can share links to papers and publications that are relevant to PER.

Now, it's obvious that everyone's taste in PER articles is going to be different. My interests lie in

  • resource theory and linked ideas

  • curriculum development on advanced physics topics

  • the physics topics of mechanics, quantum physics, and wave physics

  • the role of mathematics when thinking about physics

It is highly likely that these are not your interests. I will do my best to bring in articles that are of interest to all physics education researchers, from whatever source I find. The journals which I pay attention to are AJP, TPT, Phys Rev ST-PER, obviously, and also a bunch that deal with the learning sciences (JLS, JRST, IJSE, etc.) and other journals that aren't as often followed by US researchers (EJP, Physics Education). For those who know me, don't worry, I won't forget arxiv.org. Also, I will post links that I grab from my RSS feeds (Cognitive Daily or How We Learn, etc.). I will post links to the articles and perhaps I'll give some commentary of my own. I will try to use labels on the articles, so that you can group information based on author, physics content, methodology, or whatever. The number of such tags will be large, but hopefully useful.

What do I hope to have happen with this blog? For one, I hope it's a resource for those who are interested in PER. If nothing else, you might find a paper that you weren't expecting to find. That kind of sharing of information helps. Second, I hope that people might comment on the articles that are posted. If you read a paper and have something to say, say it here! Help out other readers. Tell them what the strengths or the weaknesses are. Yes, you can do this anonymously - or you can give your name, and we know who you are. Of course, you could start your own blog, and we could all end up debating these ideas in public. And, if you really really want to participate... then let's talk, and I can add you to the roll of people who can post on this blog. I don't want this to be just me, basically.

One important way to help: if you find an article that I have missed, then drop me a line! I won't spend much time going into the past to post famous or seminal articles. I'll post new things, from now on.

Stay tuned. Thanks for your interest.