FFPER 2007 in the APS Forum on Education - 2008

APS Forum on Education Newsletter

The Spring 2008 newsletter of the APS Forum on Education contains a section with the Working Group reports from the 2007 Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research Conference, held in Bar Harbor, Maine, in August, 2007.


Hausmann, van de Sande, VanLehn - arxiv.org 2008

Are Self-explaining and Coached Problem Solving More Effective When Done by Pairs of Students Than Alone?

Robert G.M. Hausmann, Brett van de Sande, Kurt VanLehn

Although cognitive science has discovered several methods for increasing the learning of complex skills, such as physics problem solving, detailed examination of verbal protocols suggests there is still room for improvement. Basically, students do not always apply the meta-cognitive strategies that the instruction invites. For instance, when prompted to self-explain, students may still choose to not explain. We conjecture that most students know which meta-cognitive strategies are good and bad. When they work in pairs, they are more likely to choose the good strategies. We hypothesize that social accountability improves meta-cognitive strategy choice, which thereby improves learning. Our experiment compared individuals and pairs learning from state-of-the-art instruction. The results suggest that the dyads solved more problems and requested fewer hints during problem solving than individuals. We also discovered a new form of self-explanation, wherein students generate explanations to account for the differences between their solutions and the instructor's.

Submitted to the Proceedings of the 30th Annual Cognitive Science Society (p. 744). Washington DC: Cognitive Science Society


Liu Tsai - IJSE 2008

Differences in the Scientific Epistemological Views of Undergraduate Students
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Number 8 (June 2008)

Shiang-Yao Liu, Chin-Chung Tsai

The purpose of this study was to examine whether science and non-science major students have different scientific epistemological views (SEVs). A multidimensional instrument previously developed by the authors was used to assess differences in college students' SEV of various aspects. A total of 220 freshmen (42% science and 58% non-science majors) attending two public universities participated in this investigation. Results indicated that the science majors have less sophisticated beliefs in the theory-laden and cultural-dependent aspects of science than non-science majors. Analysis of variance results further revealed significant differences in SEV dimensions among the three major fields: non-science, pure science, and science education. Science education students gained the lowest scores on the entire scale among the groups. Findings of this study imply that science major (including science education) students might be involved longer in such an epistemic environment that described scientific knowledge as objective and universal. It is also possible that beliefs about certainty and objectivity lead these students to select science as their major field. Implications for future research and science teacher education are discussed.

Citation: Shiang-Yao Liu, Chin-Chung Tsai . Differences in the Scientific Epistemological Views of Undergraduate Students. International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Number 8 (June 2008), pp. 1055-1073,

Teichert Lien Anthony Rickey - IJSE 2008

Effects of Context on Students' Molecular-Level Ideas
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Number 8 (June 2008)

Melonie Teichert, Lydia Tien, Seth Anthony, Dawn Rickey

In the studies reported here, we investigate the effects of context on students' molecular-level ideas regarding aqueous solutions. During one-on-one interviews, 19 general chemistry students recruited from a two-year community college and a research university in the United States were asked to describe their molecular-level ideas about various aqueous solutions in the contexts of conductivity and boiling-point (BP) elevation. Results indicate that context is important for determining the molecular-level ideas that students express. Specifically, students were significantly more likely to draw pictures of aqueous NaCl as separated ions in the conductivity context compared with the BP elevation context, for which they more often drew “molecular” NaCl. This phenomenon was particularly striking because the students drew molecular-level NaCl(aq) pictures in the BP elevation context just minutes after completing the identical task in the context of conductivity. Additional data from laboratory assignments and course examinations further indicate that, even if students are able to correctly represent the molecular level in some contexts, their knowledge may remain inert in slightly different contexts. The results emphasise the importance of the context dependence of molecular-level ideas and have implications for designing instruction in which students develop robust, coherent understandings that they can apply appropriately in new contexts.

Citation: Melonie Teichert, Lydia Tien, Seth Anthony, Dawn Rickey . Effects of Context on Students' Molecular-Level Ideas. International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Number 8 (June 2008), pp. 1095-1114,

Taber - IJSE 2008

Conceptual Resources for Learning Science: Issues of transience and grain-size in cognition and cognitive structure
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Number 8 (June 2008)

Keith Taber

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.

Pritchard Lee Bao - Phys Rev 2008

Mathematical learning models that depend on prior knowledge and instructional strategies
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 4, 010109 (2008)

David E. Pritchard, Young-Jin Lee, Lei Bao

We present mathematical learning models—predictions of student’s knowledge vs amount of instruction—that are based on assumptions motivated by various theories of learning: tabula rasa, constructivist, and tutoring. These models predict the improvement (on the post-test) as a function of the pretest score due to intervening instruction and also depend on the type of instruction. We introduce a connectedness model whose connectedness parameter measures the degree to which the rate of learning is proportional to prior knowledge. Over a wide range of pretest scores on standard tests of introductory physics concepts, it fits high-quality data nearly within error. We suggest that data from MIT have low connectedness (indicating memory-based learning) because the test used the same context and representation as the instruction and that more connected data from the University of Minnesota resulted from instruction in a different representation from the test.


Lichtenstein Owen Blalock Liu Ramirez Pruski Marshall Toepperwein - JRST 2008

Psychometric reevaluation of the scientific attitude inventory-revised (SAI-II)
J Res Sci Teach 45: 600-616, 2008

Michael J. Lichtenstein, Steven V. Owen, Cheryl L. Blalock, Yan Liu, Kacy A. Ramirez, Linda A. Pruski, Carolyn E. Marshall, Mary Anne Toepperwein

The central purposes of this study were to review the development and evolution of the Scientific Attitude Inventory (SAI) and then reevaluate the psychometric properties of the revised form of the SAI, the Scientific Attitude Inventory II (SAI-II). The SAI-II was administered to a convenience sample of 543 middle and high school students from five teachers in four schools in four school districts in San Antonio, Texas, at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year. Confirmatory factor analysis on the full data set failed to support the existence of a 12-factor structure (as proposed by the scale developers) or a one-factor structure. The data were then randomly divided into exploratory [exploratory factor analysis (EFA)] validation and confirmatory [confirmatory factor analysis (CFA)] cross-validation sets. Exploratory and confirmatory models yielded a three-factor solution that did not fit the data well [2 (321) = 646, p < .001; RMSEA = .061 (.90 CI = .054-.068); and CFI = .81]. The three factors were labeled Science is About Understanding and Explaining (13 items), Science is Rigid (6 items), and I Want to Be a Scientist (8 items). The -coefficients for these three factors ranged from 0.59 to 0.85. Whether these identified subscales are valid will require independent investigation. In this sample, and consistent with prior publications, the SAI-II in its current form did not have satisfactory psychometric properties and cannot be recommended for further use. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Oliveira Sadler - JRST 2008

Interactive patterns and conceptual convergence during student collaborations in science
J Res Sci Teach 45: 634-658, 2008

Alandeom W. Oliveira, Troy D. Sadler

This study examines cognitive and social processes in group interactions that shape collaborative learning in science classrooms. Three small groups of students were observed while working collaboratively on explaining the burning of a candle under a jar. The learning environment served as a context for examination of conceptual convergence, a process wherein students construct shared meanings for science concepts through gradual refinement of ambiguous, partial meanings presented in group space. Despite engaging in the same activity with very similar instructional supports, the groups displayed very different patterns of interaction and achieved varied degrees of conceptual convergence. One group collaborated effectively and displayed evidence of individual conceptualizations of science content converging to establish a more well-informed shared conceptualization. The other groups were not as successful, each for unique reasons. Problems demonstrated in one group included lack of self-confidence, poor monitoring of group learning, and active avoidance of potentially fruitful conceptual conflicts. The other group struggled primarily because of a combative social context. The major educational significance of this study was the identification of social context and interactive patterns, group approaches to conceptual conflicts, and instructors' roles in collaborative activities as crucial aspects of productive group learning.

Liu Ruiz - JRST 2008

Using data mining to predict K-12 students' performance on large-scale assessment items related to energy
J. Res. Sci. Teach 45: 554-573, 2008

Xiufeng Liu, Miguel E. Ruiz

This article reports a study on using data mining to predict K-12 students' competence levels on test items related to energy. Data sources are the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 1999 TIMSS-Repeat, 2003 Trend in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Student population performances, that is, percentages correct, are the object of prediction. Two data mining algorithms, C4.5 and M5, are used to construct a decision tree and a linear function to predict students' performance levels. A combination of factors related to content, context, and cognitive demand of items and to students' grade levels are found to predict student population performances on test items. Cognitive demands have the most significant contribution to the prediction. The decision tree and linear function agree with each other on predictions. We end the article by discussing implications of findings for future science content standard development and energy concept teaching.

Lopes Silva Cravino Costa Marques Campos - JRST 2008

Transversal traits in science education research relevant for teaching and research: A meta-interpretative study
J Res Sci Teach 45: 574-599, 2008

J. Bernardino Lopes, António Alberto Silva, José P. Cravino, Nilza Costa, Luís Marques, Carlos Campos

This study is a meta-interpretative analysis that focuses on research conducted and published by other researchers. Concepts central to this study include global practical relevance, curriculum design, and formative situation. We analyzed 35 studies selected from 374 published studies in the years 2000 and 2001 in three journals referenced in the International Scientific Index. Using a replicable methodology developed specifically for this research, we found evidence of s clusters of variables that suggest the existence of transversal traits in the 35 science education research studies. These results form a reference framework of theoretical and practical knowledge relevant for research and practice pertaining to teaching and learning science.

Brown Ryoo - JRST 2008

Teaching science as a language: A "content-first" approach to science teaching
J Res Sci Teach 45: 529-553, 2008

Bryan A. Brown, Kihyun Ryoo

Our research project was guided by the assumption that students who learn to understand phenomena in everyday terms prior to being taught scientific language will develop improved understanding of new concepts. We used web-based software to teach students using a "content-first" approach that allowed students to transition from everyday understanding of phenomena to the use of scientific language. This study involved 49 minority students who were randomly assigned into two groups for analysis: a treatment group (taught with everyday language prior to using scientific language) and a control group (taught with scientific language). Using a pre-post-test control group design, we assessed students' conceptual and linguistic understanding of photosynthesis. The results of this study indicated that students taught with the content-first approach developed significantly improved understanding when compared to students taught in traditional ways.

Meredith Marrongelle - AJP 2008

How students use mathematical resources in an electrostatics context
American Journal of Physics -- June 2008 -- Volume 76, Issue 6, pp. 570-578

Dawn C. Meredith, Karen A. Marrongelle

We present evidence that although students' mathematical skills in introductory calculus-based physics classes may not be readily applied in physics contexts, these students have strong mathematical resources on which to build effective instruction. Our evidence is based on clinical interviews of problem solving in electrostatics, which are analyzed using the framework of Sherin's symbolic forms. We find that students use notions of “dependence” and “parts-of-a-whole” to successfully guide their work, even in novel situations. We also present evidence that students' naive conceptions of the limit may prevent them from viewing integrals as sums.


Science Education 2008 - Special Issue: Science Studies and Science Education

As with previous special issues, we get everything in one big fat entry rather than separate posts for each paper. Note some regulars (Russ, Scherr, Hammer, Tiberghien) as well as others who might not be familiar to the AAPT PER crowd (Duschl, Bell, etc.).

Science Education Volume 92 Issue 3, Special Issue: Science Studies and Science Education

Introduction to special issue: Science Studies and Science Education (p 385-388)
Richard Duschl, Sibel Erduran, Richard Grandy, John Rudolph
Published Online: Mar 19 2008 11:22AM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20271

Finding science in the school body: Reflections on transgressing the boundaries of science education and the social studies of science (p 389-403)
Matthew Weinstein
Published Online: Feb 19 2008 2:15PM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20267

Disciplinary authority and accountability in scientific practice and learning (p 404-423)
Michael Ford
Published Online: Jan 24 2008 11:30AM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20263

An epistemological approach to modeling: Cases studies and implications for science teaching (p 424-446)
Gérard Sensevy, Andrée Tiberghien, Jérôme Santini, Sylvain Laubé, Peter Griggs
Published Online: Feb 19 2008 2:15PM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20268

Assessment of the ways students generate arguments in science education: Current perspectives and recommendations for future directions (p 447-472)
Victor Sampson, Douglas B. Clark
Published Online: Mar 13 2008 10:07AM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20276

Conceptualizations of argumentation from science studies and the learning sciences and their implications for the practices of science education (p 473-498)
Leah A. Bricker, Philip Bell
Published Online: Mar 17 2008 11:15AM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20278

Recognizing mechanistic reasoning in student scientific inquiry: A framework for discourse analysis developed from philosophy of science (p 499-525)
Rosemary S. Russ, Rachel E. Scherr, David Hammer, Jamie Mikeska
Published Online: Jan 24 2008 11:30AM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20264

How to justify teaching false science (p 526-542)
Matthew H. Slater
Published Online: Mar 13 2008 3:43PM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20269

Students' inventory of social actors concerned by the controversy surrounding cellular telephones: A case study (p 543-559)
Chantal Pouliot
Published Online: Mar 13 2008 3:43PM
DOI: 10.1002/sce.20274


Pollock Finkelstein - arxiv.org 2008

Sustaining Educational Reforms in Introductory Physics

Steven J. Pollock and Noah D. Finkelstein

While it is well known which curricular practices can improve student performance on measures of conceptual understanding, the sustaining of these practices and the role of faculty members in implementing these practices are less well understood. We present a study of the hand-off of Tutorials in Introductory Physics from initial adopters to other instructors at the University of Colorado, including traditional faculty not involved in physics education research. The study examines the impact of implementation of Tutorials on student conceptual learning across eight first-semester, and seven second-semester courses, for fifteen faculty over twelve semesters, and includes roughly 4000 students. It is possible to demonstrate consistently high, and statistically indistinguishable, student learning gains for different faculty members; however, such results are not the norm, and appear to rely on a variety of factors. Student performance varies by faculty background - faculty involved in, or informed by physics education research, consistently post higher student learning gains than less-informed faculty. Student performance in these courses also varies by curricula used - all semesters in which the research-based Tutorials and Learning Assistants are used have higher student learning gains than those semesters that rely on non-research based materials and do not employ Learning Assistants.