Henderson Dancy - AJP 2008

Physics faculty and educational researchers: Divergent expectations as barriers to the diffusion of innovations

Charles Henderson
Department of Physics and Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
Melissa H. Dancy
Department of Physics, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina 28223
(Received 11 April 2006; accepted 26 September 2007)

Physics Education Research (PER) practitioners have engaged in substantial curriculum development and dissemination work in recent years. Yet, it appears that this work has had minimal influence on the fundamental teaching practices of the typical physics faculty. To better understand this situation, interviews were conducted with five likely users of physics education research. All reported making changes in their instructional practices and all were influenced, to some extent, by educational research. Yet, none made full use of educational research and most had complaints about their interactions with educational researchers. In this paper we examine how these instructors used educational research in making instructional decisions and identify divergent expectations about how researchers and faculty can work together to improve student learning. Although different instructors emphasized different aspects of this discrepancy between expectations, we believe that they are all related to a single underlying issue: the typical dissemination model is to disseminate curricular innovations and have faculty adopt them with minimal changes, while faculty expect researchers to work with them to incorporate research-based knowledge and materials into their unique instructional situations. Implications and recommendations are discussed.

©2008 American Association of Physics Teachers

PACS: 01.40.Fk