Moving to CiteULike

Well, I lied in my last post. Sorry.

Updating citations in both this blog and the CiteULike location is too onerous a task to continue.

Here are some weaknesses of the existing blog:

  • Posting articles in this blog is time consuming and strips relevant information.

  • Searching for past posts in this blog is difficult, with too many tags for each article, and no distinction between authors, journals, and keywords in the tagging system.

  • Downloading a citation is difficult, if you wish to enter the citation into your own database

  • Links are often difficult to manage, since sometimes the DOI link is unavailable, and other links are restricted.

The list could go on, but I won't. CiteULike addresses nearly all these concerns. It is richer, easier, and more dynamic than this blog. It is the appropriate tool for the task.

One added benefit of the PERticles blog on CiteULike is that anyone who joins the group can post articles. Yes, anyone. That means you. Joss Ives has been a great help, and I certainly hope that others join in.

What can you do on CiteULike?

The peasant is dead - long live the peasant. CiteULike is the new location for the PERticles blog. Thanks for subscribing to this blog - join us and join in at the new, improved PERticle blog.


Testing a new PERticles location

Hi all,

Thanks for following this blog. It's really amazing how many people mention it to me. I really appreciate that.

The thing is, blogger really stinks for keeping a blog of this nature. It's hard to get a citation out, it's hard to tag all the journals, authors, and so on, and it's generally not designed for this kind of task.

CiteULike is designed much better. Really, if you don't know it, you should. It's fabulous. Check out this link. If you want to subscribe to the feed, click here.

I will keep double-posting for a while, but the long range plan is to head entirely to CiteULike. It's the right tool for the job.



Brewe Kramer O’Brien - PRST-PER 2009

Modeling instruction: Positive attitudinal shifts in introductory physics measured with CLASS
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 013102 (2009)

Eric Brewe, Laird Kramer, George O’Brien

Among the most surprising findings in Physics Education Research is the lack of positive results on attitudinal measures, such as Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) and Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX). The uniformity with which physics teaching manages to negatively shift attitudes toward physics learning is striking. Strategies which have been shown to improve conceptual learning, such as interactive engagement and studio-format classes, provide more authentic science experiences for students; yet do not seem to be sufficient to produce positive attitudinal results. Florida International University’s Physics Education Research Group has implemented Modeling Instruction in University Physics classes as part of an overall effort toward building a research and learning community. Modeling Instruction is explicitly designed to engage students in scientific practices that include model building, validation, and revision. Results from a preinstruction/postinstruction CLASS measurement show attitudinal improvements through both semesters of an introductory physics sequence, as well as over the entire two-course sequence. In this Brief Report, we report positive shifts from the CLASS in one section of a modeling-based introductory physics sequence, for both mechanics (N=22) and electricity and magnetism (N=23) . Using the CLASS results and follow up interviews, we examine how these results reflect on modeling instruction and the unique student community and population at FIU.


Asikainen Hirvonen - AJP 2009

A study of pre- and inservice physics teachers' understanding of photoelectric phenomenon as part of the development of a research-based quantum physics course

Am. J. Phys. 77, 658 (2009), DOI:10.1119/1.3129093
Mervi A. Asikainen and Pekka E. Hirvonen

We describe the development of a research-based quantum physics course for physics teachers. A case study approach is used to study the effect of the course on preservice and inservice teachers' understanding of the photoelectric effect. Results offer new insights into the learning of the photoelectric effect by providing a detailed description of the participant understanding. The learning outcomes achieved indicate that the instructional approach and the teaching–learning procedure used in the course can help preservice and inservice teachers attain an in-depth understanding of key quantum physics concepts.

Willoughby Metz - AJP 2009

Exploring gender differences with different gain calculations in astronomy and biology
Am. J. Phys. 77, 651 (2009), DOI:10.1119/1.3133087

Shannon D. Willoughby and Anneke Metz

To investigate differences in learning gains by gender, we collected data in large introductory astronomy and biology courses. Male astronomy students had significantly higher pre- and post-test scores than female students on the astronomy diagnostic test. Male students also had significantly higher pretest and somewhat higher post-test scores than female students on a survey instrument designed for an introductory biology course. For both courses, males had higher learning gains than female students only when the normalized gain measure was utilized. No differences were found with any other measures, including other gain calculations, overall course grades, or individual exams. Implications for using different learning gain measures in science classrooms, as well as for research on learning differences by gender are discussed.


Etkina Karelina Murthy Ruibal-Villasenor - PRST-PER 2009

Using action research to improve learning and formative assessment to conduct research
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010109 (2009)

Eugenia Etkina, Anna Karelina, Sahana Murthy, and Maria Ruibal-Villasenor

The paper reports on how educational research informed and supported both the process of refinement of introductory physics laboratory instruction and student development of scientific abilities. In particular we focus on how the action research approach paradigm combined with instructional approaches such as scaffolding and formative assessment can be used to design the learning environment, investigate student learning, revise curriculum materials, and conduct subsequent assessment. As the result of the above efforts we found improvement in students’ scientific abilities over the course of three years. We suggest that the process used to improve the curriculum under study can be extended to many instructional innovations.


Kohlmyer et al. - arxiv.org 2009

A Tale of Two Curricula: The performance of two thousand students in introductory electromagnetism

Matthew A. Kohlmyer, Marcos D. Caballero, Richard Catrambone, Ruth W. Chabay, Lin Ding, Mark P. Haugan, M. Jackson Marr, Bruce A. Sherwood, Michael F. Schatz

The performance of over 2000 students in introductory calculus-based electromagnetism (E&M) courses at four large research universities was measured using the Brief Electricity and Magnetism Assessment (BEMA). Two different curricula were used at these universities: a traditional E&M curriculum and the Matter & Interactions (M&I) curriculum. At each university, post-instruction BEMA test averages were significantly higher for the M&I curriculum than for the traditional curriculum. The differences in post-test averages cannot be explained by differences in variables such as pre-instruction BEMA scores, grade point average, or SAT scores. BEMA performance on categories of items organized by subtopic was also compared at one of the universities; M&I averages were significantly higher in each topic. The results suggest that the M&I curriculum is more effective than the traditional curriculum at teaching E&M concepts to students, possibly because the learning progression in M&I reorganizes and augments the traditional sequence of topics, for example, by increasing early emphasis on the vector field concept and by emphasizing the effects of fields on matter at the microscopic level.

Rosengrant Heuvelen Etkina - PRST-PER 2009

Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010108 (2009)

David Rosengrant, Alan Van Heuvelen, and Eugenia Etkina

Physics education literature recommends using multiple representations to help students understand concepts and solve problems. However, there is little research concerning why students use the representations and whether those who use them are more successful. This study addresses these questions using free-body diagrams (diagrammatic representations used in problems involving forces) as a type of representation. We conducted a two-year quantitative and qualitative study of students’ use of free-body diagrams while solving physics problems. We found that when students are in a course that consistently emphasizes the use of free-body diagrams, the majority of them do use diagrams on their own to help solve exam problems even when they receive no credit for drawing the diagrams. We also found that students who draw diagrams correctly are significantly more successful in obtaining the right answer for the problem. Lastly, we interviewed students to uncover their reasons for using free-body diagrams. We found that high achieving students used the diagrams to help solve the problems and as a tool to evaluate their work while low achieving students only used representations as aids in the problem-solving process.


Kortemeyer - PRST-PER 2009

Gender differences in the use of an online homework system in an introductory physics course
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010107 (2009)

Gerd Kortemeyer

The two genders make different use of being allowed multiple tries to solve online homework problems: male students frequently attempt to immediately solve the problem, while female students are more likely to first interact with peers and teaching assistants before entering answers. More male than female students state that they use the multiple allowed attempts to enter “random stuff,” while more female than male students state that the multiple attempts allow them to explore their own problem solving approaches without worrying or being stressed out by grades.


Kim Song - IJSE 2009

The Effects of Dichotomous Attitudes toward Science on Interest and Conceptual Understanding in Physics
International Journal of Science Education online first publication

Minkee Kim; Jinwoong Song

The literature on students' attitudinal constructs in science education asserts that students hold dichotomous attitudes toward science (AS). For instance, studies from the Relevance of Science Education project reveal that students possess negative attitudes in terms of their favourableness toward school science, preference toward scientific careers, and emotional states toward science (negative intrinsic AS), despite their positive perception that science is important for society (positive extrinsic AS). The issue demands in-depth examination, since not enough science educators have studied the effects of the dichotomous AS on science education. Rather, they have attempted to improve the uncategorised AS for stimulating student achievement in science education. Hence, the aim of this study is to clarify how the dichotomous attitude (intrinsic AS and extrinsic AS) relates to the two educational products in science: interest inventory and conceptual understanding. One hundred and sixteen physics learners in Japan were sampled for fitting the structural equation model in this study. Our final model validated by LISREL suggests that intrinsic AS exclusively stimulate students' interest and conceptual understanding in physics, while extrinsic AS fail to play their expected role. Finally, features of the sampled 10th-graders and their dichotomous AS are further interpreted with the prevalent concept of the hidden curriculum.


Espinoza - JSET 2009

Using Project-Based Data in Physics to Examine Television Viewing in Relation to Student Performance in Science
Journal of Science Education and Technology (online first publication)

Fernando Espinoza

Mass media, particularly television, influence public conceptions and attitudes toward learning science. The discovery of an original method that does not rely on self-reported viewing habits to measure the impact of television on students’ performance in science arose from a study of a unit on electricity in a Physics course. In determining the number of television sets at home and the number of hours of operation, data emerged that allowed an investigation of associations between each of these variables and student performance in physics. A negative impact on performance was found in its consistent decrease as both the number of sets and the time the sets are on increase. These results provide dramatic independent confirmation of the negative impact of television viewing on achievement determined through meta-analysis of many studies, and are also consistent with those in the literature at large, particularly from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Furthermore, the totally ‘blind’ participation of the subjects lends a degree of authenticity rarely found in a classically designed study. The findings impact scientific literacy, since performance in science and conceptions of science and scientists, are all inextricably linked.

Glauert - IJSE 2009

How Young Children Understand Electric Circuits: Prediction, explanation and exploration
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 8 May 2009 , pages 1025 - 1047

Esme Bridget Glauert

This paper reports findings from a study of young children's views about electric circuits. Twenty-eight children aged 5 and 6 years were interviewed. They were shown examples of circuits and asked to predict whether they would work and explain why. They were then invited to try out some of the circuit examples or make circuits of their own choosing. Children expressed a variety of views about the connections needed in a circuit, offered different kinds of explanation and showed differing levels of competence in circuit making. The range of responses showed similarities to those of older students found in previous research. The relationship between practical competence, prediction, and explanation was not straightforward. For example, children with similar levels of practical competence made different predictions or offered different kinds of explanation. Analysis of the circuits children chose to construct suggested influences of existing competence and knowledge. In particular, some children tested out circuit examples about which they had been unsure during the interview, while others explored circuit connections more generally. Findings underline the importance of drawing on a variety of evidence in assessing young children's understandings of electric circuits. They indicate that young children may offer views about electric circuits not unlike those of older children and adults with similar experience. Finally, there was some suggestion that the interview procedure may have acted as an instructive stimulus in helping children to become more conscious of their own views and reflect on their thinking in the light of further evidence.

Ozdemir - IJSE 2009

Avoidance from Thought Experiments: Fear of misconception
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 8 May 2009 , pages 1049 - 1068

Omer Faruk Ozdemir

Two independent lines of research—mental simulations and thought experiments—provide strong arguments about the importance of perceptual modalities for the instructional practices in science education. By situating the use of mental simulations in the framework of thought experiments, this study investigated the nature and the role of mental simulations in the context of problem-solving. This study draws on data collected through problem-solving sessions with five physics graduates. Throughout the problem-solving sessions, think-aloud and retrospective questioning were used. Results from this study support some serious concerns put forward by several researchers in the community of science educators about high dependence on descriptive forms of scientific knowledge and exclusion of perceptual modalities from instructional practices. The participants' verbal reports confirmed that they had implicitly or explicitly reached a conclusion that mental simulations were not a legitimate way of reasoning about physics problems, and they consciously avoided the use of mental simulations. This conceptualization seemed to lead participants to compartmentalize mental simulations from formal physics knowledge. Therefore, mental simulations were not refined but kept in a primitive form, which was no more than a retrieval of perceptual representations constructed through observations and experiences of the world. The speculations on the results of the study were based on the interpretations of learning science in terms of the refinement and reorganizations of preinstructional ideas.


Reviews in PER - Volume 2 (Getting Started)

Getting Started in Physics Education Research

Foreword (direct link)
Charles Henderson and Kathleen A. Harper
We welcome comments about this issue, as well as suggestions for topics to be addressed by future issues.

An Introduction to Physics Education Research (direct link)
Robert Beichner
This article aims to introduce the reader to the field of Physics Education Research (PER).

An Introduction to Classical Test Theory as Applied to Conceptual Multiple-choice Tests (direct link)
Paula V. Engelhardt
The purpose of this paper is to provide the reader with a general overview of the key aspects of the development process from the perspective of classical test theory and critical issues that distinguish high-quality conceptual multiple-choice tests from those that are not.

Additional articles are planned, and this post will be updated.


Beatty Feldman - NARST 2009

Illuminating teacher change and professional development with CHAT
In the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Garden Grove CA, Apr 20.

Beatty, Ian D. and Feldman, Allan

Technology-Enhanced Formative Assessment (TEFA) is an innovative pedagogy for science and mathematics instruction. Teacher Learning of TEFA is a research project studying teacher change as in-service secondary science and mathematics teachers learn TEFA in the context of a multi-year professional development (PD) program. Applying cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) to the linked activity systems of PD and teachers’ classroom practice leads to a model of teacher learning and pedagogical change in which TEFA is first introduced into classrooms as an object of activity, and then made useful as a tool for instruction, and then—in rare cases—incorporated into all elements of a deeply transformed practice. Different levels of contradiction within and between activity systems drive the transitions between stages. CHAT analysis also suggests that the primary contradiction within secondary education is a dual view of students as objects of instruction versus students as willful individuals; the difficulties arising from this contradiction can either inhibit or motivate TEFA adoption.


Alonzo Steedle - Science Education 2009

Developing and assessing a force and motion learning progression
Sci Ed 93: 389-421, 2009

Alicia C. Alonzo, Jeffrey T. Steedle

The full set of force and motion items are available by contacting the first author.

Learning progressions are ordered descriptions of students' understanding of a given concept. In this paper, we describe the iterative process of developing a force and motion learning progression and associated assessment items. We report on a pair of studies designed to explore the diagnosis of students' learning progression levels. First, we compare the use of ordered multiple-choice (OMC) and open-ended (OE) items for assessing students relative to the learning progression. OMC items appear to provide more precise diagnoses of students' learning progression levels and to be more valid, eliciting students' conceptions more similarly to cognitive interviews. Second, we explore evidence bearing on two challenges concerning reliability and validity of level diagnoses: the consistency with which students respond to items set in different contexts and the ways in which students interpret and use language in responding to items. As predicted, students do not respond consistently to similar problems set in different contexts. Although the language used in OMC items generally seems to reflect student thinking, misinterpretation of the language in items may lead to inaccurate diagnoses for a subset of students. Both issues are less problematic for classroom applications than for use of learning progressions in large-scale testing.

UPDATE: This paper had been previously posted as an online first publication, 9/3/08. The URL and citation have been updated.


Davis Smithey - Science Education 2009

Beginning teachers moving toward effective elementary science teaching
Sci Ed 1-26, 2009

Elizabeth A. Davis, Julie Smithey

We use a 10-year program of research centered on iterations of one elementary science methods course as a vehicle for exploring three important and interrelated goals for the learning of beginning elementary teachers. These include learning about inquiry-oriented science teaching, using science curriculum materials effectively, and anticipating and working with students' ideas in instruction. For each goal we discuss how the literature informs our thinking, describe relevant aspects of our design of the course, and present findings of our research with regard to preservice teachers' experiences in and learning from aspects of the course. For each goal, we also highlight examples from our longitudinal work following the preservice teachers into their early years as elementary teachers, to provide a glimpse of teachers' trajectories related to each of the themes. We close with a discussion of implications for research and practice in elementary science teacher education.

Schwarz - Science Education 2009

Developing preservice elementary teachers' knowledge and practices through modeling-centered scientific inquiry
Sci Ed 1-25, 2009

Christina Schwarz

Preservice elementary teachers face many challenges in learning how to teach science effectively, such as engaging students in science, organizing instruction, and developing a productive learning community. This paper reports on several iterative cycles of design-based research aimed at fostering preservice teachers' principled reasoning around these problems of practice through modeling-centered scientific inquiry. The first design cycle introduced preservice teachers to modeling and simulation software tools in an effort to advance their understanding of science and technology; the second used an instructional framework embodying modeling-centered inquiry to advance their views of effective science teaching and their lesson-planning practices; the third engaged preservice teachers in analyzing and modifying curriculum materials using reform-based criteria to foster effective curriculum materials use. Outcomes from these iterations indicate that the preservice teachers were most likely to advance their knowledge and practices within a coherent approach that focused on a core scientific practice such as modeling-centered inquiry, provided opportunities to unpack and apply robust tools such as reform-based instructional frameworks, and addressed their perceived problems of practice. The findings from this set of approaches are compared to others in an effort to point toward promising future directions for effective science teacher education.

Zembal-Saul - Science Education 2009

Learning to teach elementary school science as argument
Sci Ed 1-33, 2009

Carla Zembal-Saul

New views of proficiency in K-8 science that highlight the importance of engaging children in the discourses and practices of science have raised the stakes for elementary teachers and the teacher educators who prepare them. In this paper, a framework for teaching science as argument is presented. The framework is advanced as a means of addressing problems of practices faced by preservice teachers, creating coherence for the design of teacher education experiences, and serving as a tool for shaping a design-based research agenda. Findings of three research studies that examined preservice teachers' developing understandings and practices for teaching science as argument and the ways in which teacher education experiences mediated learning are synthesized. Across the studies, findings suggest that the framework serves as a powerful scaffold for preservice teachers' developing thinking and practice. More specifically, early attention to evidence and argument can leverage other important aspects of effective science teaching, such as attention to classroom discourse and the role of the teacher in monitoring and assessing children's thinking. In closing, a case is made for coherence among science learning opportunities, learning to teach science experiences, and field experiences.


Ma Ma - Studies in Ed Evaluation

The challenge of separating effects of simultaneous education projects on student achievement
Studies In Educational Evaluation 35:1 p. 45-52

Xin Ma and Lingling Ma

When multiple education projects operate in an overlapping or rear-ended manner, it is always a challenge to separate unique project effects on schooling outcomes. Our analysis represents a first attempt to address this challenge. A three-level hierarchical linear model (HLM) was presented as a general analytical framework to separate program effects while taking into account the hierarchy in educational data. The HLM model was then applied to data from the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System that the State of Kentucky has implemented for years, in an attempt to separate the effects of two education projects aimed at improving mathematics and science education in the Appalachian region: the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative (ARSI) closely followed by the Appalachian Mathematics and Science Partnership (AMSP). Even though the HLM model successfully separated ARSI and AMSP effects, relevant statistical issues were discussed to improve future efforts in separating effects of simultaneous education projects on schooling outcomes.


comments on comments

Hi all,

My apologies for the long delay in updating the blog with papers from papers outside of the "mainstream" of PER journals. There have been great papers in all sorts of interesting locations. I added a bunch this morning, and a few this evening.

One element I've just started in this evening's updates: I am adding a comment to some papers, explaining why they're being added, whose or what work I'm thinking of when I read the abstract, and how the paper might fit into the larger endeavor that is PER. For example, when there's a paper about working memory in algebra and problem-solving, it seems pretty obvious to me that we're dealing with an issue relevant to our students working through conceptual physics problems involving logic buried within the words. Or, when looking at issues in writing, I think of Scott Franklin and Dedra Demaree and others... So, from now on, I'll post additional comments with the abstract. If you want to add your comments, please do! I'd like to have a more communal sense of commentary on the papers. Your involvement would be great.

As always, thanks to Joss for updating the PRST-PER and AJP papers, as well.


Rünger Nagy Frensch - J Exp Psych LMC

Do recognition and priming index a unitary knowledge base? Comment on Shanks et al. (2003).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Vol 35(2), Mar 2009, 572-585.

Rünger, Dennis; Nagy, Gabriel; Frensch, Peter A.

Whether sequence learning entails a single or multiple memory systems is a moot issue. Recently, D. R. Shanks, L. Wilkinson, and S. Channon (see record 2003-02055-007) advanced a single-system model that predicts a perfect correlation between true (i.e., error free) response time priming and recognition. The Shanks model is contrasted with a dual-process model that incorporates both response time priming and reportable sequence knowledge as predictors of recognition. The models were tested by applying confirmatory factor analysis to data obtained from a recognition test that was administered under both speed and accuracy conditions. The Shanks model accounted for the data in the speed condition, whereas the dual-process model provided a better fit in the accuracy condition. The results are compatible with the notion that cognitive processes were engaged differentially in recognition judgments under speed and accuracy conditions.

Dreisbach Haider - J Exp Psych LMC

How task representations guide attention: Further evidence for the shielding function of task sets.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Vol 35(2), Mar 2009, 477-486.

Dreisbach, Gesine; Haider, Hilde

To pursue goal directed behavior, the cognitive system must be shielded against interference from irrelevant information. Aside from the online adjustment of cognitive control widely discussed in the literature, an additional mechanism of preventive goal shielding is suggested that circumvents irrelevant information from being processed in the first place. Participants had to react to 8 different words depicting clothing items that were presented in front of line drawings that could be either semantically related (clothes) or unrelated (animals with spatial orientation) to the target words. Participants either learned the stimulus–response (S–R) mappings by heart or used 1 task set (TS). In the S–R group, semantically related and unrelated distractors interfered with performance, whereas in the TS group, only semantically related distractors interfered, and unrelated distractors had no effect. It follows that task representations based on a general TS help to focus attention on relevant information, thereby preventing the processing of irrelevant information.

Proctor Yamaguchi Zhang Vu - J Exp Psych LMC

Influence of visual stimulus mode on transfer of acquired spatial associations.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Vol 35(2), Mar 2009, 434-445.

Proctor, Robert W.; Yamaguchi, Motonori; Zhang, Yanmin; Vu, Kim-Phuong L.

Associations between corresponding stimulus–response locations are often characterized as overlearned, producing automatic activation. However, 84 practice trials with an incompatible mapping eliminate the benefit for spatial correspondence in a transfer Simon task, where stimulus location is irrelevant. The authors examined whether transfer occurs for combinations of physical-location, arrow-direction, and location-word modes in the practice and transfer sessions. With 84 practice trials, the Simon effect was reduced for locations and arrows, and there was complete transfer across these modes; location words showed little transfer within or between modes. These results suggest that the acquired short-term associations were based on visual-spatial stimulus codes distinct from semantic-spatial codes activated by the words. With 600 practice trials, words showed transfer to word and arrow but not location Simon tasks, suggesting that arrows share semantic-spatial codes with words. Reaction-time distribution functions for the Simon effect showed distinct shapes for each stimulus mode, with little impact of the practiced mapping on the shapes. Thus, the contribution of the short-term location associations seems to be separate from that of the long-term associations responsible for the Simon effect.

Lee Ng Ng - J Ed Psych 2009

The contributions of working memory and executive functioning to problem representation and solution generation in algebraic word problems.
Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol 101(2), May 2009, 373-387.

Lee, Kerry; Ng, Ee Lynn; Ng, Swee Fong

Solving algebraic word problems involves multiple cognitive phases. The authors used a multitask approach to examine the extent to which working memory and executive functioning are associated with generating problem models and producing solutions. They tested 255 11-year-olds on working memory (Counting Recall, Letter Memory, and Keep Track), ability to inhibit inappropriate responses (inhibition: numeric Stroop, Stop Signal), mental flexibility (switching: Number–Letter and Plus–Minus), English literacy, and algebraic problem-solving skills (problem representation, solution generation, and other subcomponents). Working memory explained about a quarter of the variance in both representation and solution formation. Literacy explained an additional 20% of the variance in representation formation. Ability to discern quantitative relationships explained an additional 10%. The findings go beyond a demonstration of an association between working memory and problem-solving accuracy. They show that success in word problems is particularly reliant on ability to decode and assign mathematical operators to quantitative relationships, 2 phases of problem solving that also draw heavily on working memory resources.

Ed Psych linked articles on Ohlsson's model of conceptual change

Rather than post all articles individually, here are a batch of linked articles on resubsumption and conceptual change, published in the Educational Psychologist.

Educational Psychologist, Volume 44 Issue 1 2009

Resubsumption: A Possible Mechanism for Conceptual Change and Belief Revision
Stellan Ohlsson

Rethinking the Role of Resubsumption in Conceptual Change
Andrew Shtulman

Conceptual Change—Multiple Routes, Multiple Mechanisms: A Commentary on Ohlsson (2009)
Clark A. Chinn; Ala Samarapungavan

Contrasting Ohlsson's Resubsumption Theory With Chi's Categorical Shift Theory
Michelene T. H. Chi; Sarah K. Brem

Meaning Change, Multiple Routes, and the Role of Differentiation in Conceptual Change: Alternatives to Resubsumption?
Stellan Ohlsson

Koning Tabbers Rikers Paas - Ed Psych Rev 2009

Towards a Framework for Attention Cueing in Instructional Animations: Guidelines for Research and Design
Educational Psychology Review

Björn B. de Koning, Huib K. Tabbers, Remy M. J. P. Rikers and Fred Paas

This paper examines the transferability of successful cueing approaches from text and static visualization research to animations. Theories of visual attention and learning as well as empirical evidence for the instructional effectiveness of attention cueing are reviewed and, based on Mayer’s theory of multimedia learning, a framework was developed for classifying three functions for cueing: (1) selection—cues guide attention to specific locations, (2) organization—cues emphasize structure, and (3) integration—cues explicate relations between and within elements. The framework was used to structure the discussion of studies on cueing in animations. It is concluded that attentional cues may facilitate the selection of information in animations and sometimes improve learning, whereas organizational and relational cueing requires more consideration on how to enhance understanding. Consequently, it is suggested to develop cues that work in animations rather than borrowing effective cues from static representations. Guidelines for future research on attention cueing in animations are presented.

Scherr Hammer - C&I 2009

Student Behavior and Epistemological Framing: Examples from Collaborative Active-Learning Activities in Physics
Cognition and Instruction, Volume 27, Issue 2 April 2009 , pages 147 - 174

Rachel E. Scherr; David Hammer

The concept of framing from anthropology and sociolinguistics is useful for understanding student reasoning. 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 framing affects what she notices, what knowledge she accesses, and how she thinks to act. We find evidence of framing in easily observed features of students' collaborative 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. We find evidence that certain student behaviors indicate and support a relatively sophisticated epistemological framing of these activities, one in which students discuss the substance of the ideas at hand.

An earlier draft of this paper was posted previously.

Harlow - Science Education 2009

Structures and improvisation for inquiry-based science instruction: A teacher's adaptation of a model of magnetism activity
Sci Ed 1-22, 2009

Danielle Boyd Harlow

One aspect of scientific inquiry that appears to be particularly challenging to learn is how explanatory models are developed and used in science. It is even more challenging to learn to teach through methods that engage young students in building and using explanatory models. In part, this is because to do so requires that teachers make real-time instructional decisions in response to the ideas that students articulate. In this paper I present an example of a teacher who participated in a series of activities during a professional development course that guided her and her colleagues through the process of developing and revising an explanatory model of magnetic phenomenon. She subsequently transformed this series of activities to use with her elementary school students. Contrasting the series of activities in the elementary classroom to the corresponding professional development activities revealed improvisational instructional acts and shed light on aspects of the classroom context that necessitated and facilitated improvisation. In particular, this paper highlights the multiple pedagogical and disciplinary structures that teachers implicitly chose among when improvising.

Kalman - Science & Education 2009

Enabling Students to Develop a Scientific Mindset
Science & Education

Calvin Kalman

This paper is centered on getting students to understand the nature of science (NOS) by considering historical material in relation to modern philosophers of science. This paper incorporates the methodology of contrasting cases in the calculus-based introductory physics course on optics and modern physics. Students study one philosopher all semester as a group project and report regularly on how their philosopher would view the subject matter of the course. Almost all of the students were able to argue successfully on the final examination about all three philosophers. Students become aware that the same textual material can be viewed in a variety of ways. The answers that students give about the NOS have become clearer at the end of the course.

Wuttiprom Sharma Johnston Chitaree Soankwan - IJSE 2008

Development and Use of a Conceptual Survey in Introductory Quantum Physics
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 5 March 2009 , pages 631 - 654

Sura Wuttiprom; Manjula Devi Sharma; Ian D. Johnston; Ratchapak Chitaree; Chernchok Soankwan

Conceptual surveys have become increasingly popular at many levels to probe various aspects of science education research such as measuring student understanding of basic concepts and assessing the effectiveness of pedagogical material. The aim of this study was to construct a valid and reliable multiple-choice conceptual survey to investigate students' understanding of introductory quantum physics concepts. We examined course syllabi to establish content coverage, consulted with experts to extract fundamental content areas, and trialled open-ended questions to determine how the selected content areas align with students' difficulties. The questions were generated and trialled with different groups of students. Each version of the survey was critiqued by a group of discipline and teaching experts to establish its validity. The survey was administered to 312 students at the University of Sydney. Using the data from this sample, we performed five statistical tests (item difficulty index, item discrimination index, item point biserial coefficient, KR-21 reliability test, and Ferguson's delta) to evaluate the test's reliability and discriminatory power. The result indicates that our survey is a reliable test. This study also provided data from which preliminary findings were drawn on students' understandings of introductory quantum physics concepts. The main point is that questions which require an understanding of the standard interpretations of quantum physics are more challenging for students than those grouped as non-interpretative. The division of conceptual questions into interpretive and non-interpretive needs further exploration.

DOI: 10.1080/09500690701747226

Grimberg Hand - IJSE 2009

Cognitive Pathways: Analysis of students' written texts for science understanding
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 4 March 2009 , pages 503 - 521

Bruna Irene Grimberg; Brian Hand

The purpose of this study was to reconstruct writers' reasoning process as reflected in their written texts. The codes resulting from the text analysis were related to cognitive operations, ranging from simple to more sophisticated ones. The sequence of the cognitive operations as the text unfolded represents the writer's cognitive pathway at the time the text was produced. This type of analysis was used to study the impact that three different types of inquiries had on the reasoning process of low-achieving and high-achieving students when performing their laboratory activity using the Science Writing Heuristic. The researchers found that the reasoning pathways for both low-achieving and high-achieving students were similar for each type of inquiry, characterized as being decision-making, descriptive/speculative, and application. The reasoning pathways for the decision-making and application inquiries appear to be more structured than the pathways for the descriptive/speculative activity. The dependence between students' achievement levels and the type of inquiry in relation to specific use of thinking operations was tested using a chi-square analysis, with the results indicating that the reasoning operations performed by the students are independent of their achievement level and dependent on the inquiry type. Higher-order operations were extensively used in the decision-making inquiry and less used in the application activity. Low-order cognitive operations, such as observations and comparisons, were extensively used in the descriptive/speculative inquiry while being less used in the decision-making inquiry activity.

Abd-El-Khalick Ackerson - IJSE 2009

The Influence of Metacognitive Training on Preservice Elementary Teachers' Conceptions of Nature of Science
International Journal of Science Education

Fouad Abd-El-Khalick; Valarie Akerson

This study assessed the influence of training in, and use of, metacognitive strategies on the development of prospective elementary teachers' views of nature of science (NOS). Participants were 49 students (92% female) enrolled in two sections of an elementary science methods course. The sections were randomly assigned to an intervention group and a comparison group. Students in both groups were engaged with explicit-reflective NOS instruction, which focused on the empirical, tentative, theory-driven, inferential, and creative NOS. Additionally, students in the intervention group received instruction in, and used, three metacognitive strategies during their engagement with thinking about NOS. The Views of Nature of Science Questionnaire—Form C and the Metacognitive Awareness Inventory were respectively used to assess participants' views of NOS and metacognitive awareness at the beginning and conclusion of the study. Data analyses indicated that significantly more students in the intervention group explicated more informed views of the target aspects of NOS. Moreover, these substantial changes were coupled with significantly increased Metacognitive Awareness Inventory scores for the intervention group participants. The results point to a relationship between improved metacognitive awareness and the development of informed understandings of NOS.

Prain Tytler Peterson - IJSE 2009

Multiple Representation in Learning About Evaporation
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 6 April 2009 , pages 787 - 808

Vaughan Prain; Russell Tytler; Suzanne Peterson

There has been extensive research on children's understanding of evaporation, but representational issues entailed in this understanding have not been investigated in depth. This study explored three students' engagement with science concepts relating to evaporation through various representational modes, such as diagrams, verbal accounts, gestures, and captioned drawings. This engagement entailed students (a) clarifying their thinking through exploring representational resources; (b) developing understanding of what these representations signify; and (c) learning how to construct representational aspects of scientific explanation. The study involved a sequence of classroom lessons on evaporation and structured interviews with nine children, and found that a focus on representational challenges provided fresh insights into the conceptual task involved in learning science. The findings suggest that teacher-mediated negotiation of representational issues as students construct different modal accounts can support enriched learning by enabling both (a) richer conceptual understanding by students; and (b) enhanced teacher insights into students' thinking.

Adbo Taber - IJSE 2009

Learners' Mental Models of the Particle Nature of Matter: A study of 16-year-old Swedish science students
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 6 April 2009 , pages 757 - 786

Karina Adbo; Keith S. Taber

The results presented here derive from a longitudinal study of Swedish upper secondary science students' (16-19 years of age) developing understanding of key chemical concepts. The informants were 18 students from two different schools. The aim of the present study was to investigate the mental models of matter at the particulate level that learners develop. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews based around the students' own drawings of the atom, and of solids, liquids, and gases. The interview transcripts were analysed to identify patterns in the data that offer insight into aspects of student understanding. The findings are discussed in the specific curriculum context in Swedish schools. Results indicate that the teaching model of the atom (derived from Bohr's model) commonly presented by teachers and textbook authors in Sweden gives the students an image of a disproportionately large and immobile nucleus, emphasises a planetary model of the atom and gives rise to a chain of logic leading to immobility in the solid state and molecular breakdown during phase transitions. The findings indicate that changes in teaching approaches are required to better support learners in developing mental models that reflect the intended target knowledge.

Ostermeier Prenzel Duit - IJSE 2009

Improving Science and Mathematics Instruction: The SINUS Project as an example for reform as teacher professional development
International Journal of Science Education

Christian Ostermeier; Manfred Prenzel; Reinders Duit

This article presents an example of teacher professional development based on a perspective of situated learning and implemented on a large scale. We consider teacher professional development from three perspectives. First, teacher professional development is a key factor in improving classroom instruction. Second, teacher professional development is a vehicle for conveying knowledge from research into classrooms. Third, teacher professional development is an object of research itself. A German project to improve science and mathematics teaching (SINUS)—comprising 180 schools in a pilot-phase and more than 1,700 schools in a second phase of scaling-up—serves as an example of this framework for teacher professional development. Using these three views we describe the foundations of the programme and provide a brief account of the programme's background and its conception. We show how the central elements of the programme (11 modules) are based on an in-depth analysis of science and mathematics education, as well as how those modules structure the professional development of the teachers. Finally, we provide an overview of the evaluation of the programme. A large-scale comparison between SINUS schools and a representative sample of German schools tested in PISA 2003 showed positive effects of the programme with regard to students' interest and motivation as well as competencies in science and mathematics. In the light of these findings, we argue that teachers' learning related to daily pedagogical challenges in the classroom should be central to professional development initiatives.

Liu Hu Jiannong Adey - IJSE 2009

Gender Stereotyping and Affective Attitudes Towards Science in Chinese Secondary School Students
International Journal of Science Education

Mingxin Liu; Weiping Hu; Shi Jiannong; Philip Adey

This study explores explicit and implicit gender-science stereotypes and affective attitudes towards science in a sample of Chinese secondary school students. The results showed that (1) gender-science stereotyping was more and more apparent as the specialization of science subjects progresses through secondary school, becoming stronger from the 10th grade; girls were more inclined to stereotype than boys while this gender difference decreased with increasing grade; (2) girls tend to have an implicit science-unpleasant/humanities-pleasant association from the 8th grade, while boys showed a negative implicit attitude towards science up to the 11th grade. In self-report, girls preferred humanities to science, while boys preferred science to humanities; (3) implicit affective attitude was closely related to implicit stereotype. In particular, implicit affective attitude has a stronger predictive power on stereotype than the other way around, the result of which may have more significance for girls.

Wilhelm - IJSE 2009

Gender Differences in Lunar-related Scientific and Mathematical Understandings
International Journal of Science Education

Author: Jennifer Wilhelm

This paper reports an examination on gender differences in lunar phases understanding of 123 students (70 females and 53 males). Middle-level students interacted with the Moon through observations, sketching, journalling, two-dimensional and three-dimensional modelling, and classroom discussions. These lunar lessons were adapted from the Realistic Explorations in Astronomical Learning (REAL) curriculum. Students' conceptual understandings were measured through analysis of pre-test and post-test results on a Lunar Phases Concept Inventory (LPCI) and a Geometric Spatial Assessment (GSA). The LPCI was used to assess conceptual learning of eight science and four mathematics domains. The GSA was used to assess learning of the same four mathematical domains; however, the GSA test items were not posed within a lunar context. Results showed both male and female groups to make significant gains in understanding on the overall LPCI test scores as well as significant gains on five of the eight science domains and on three of the four mathematics domains. The males scored significantly higher than the females on the science domain, phase—Sun/Earth/Moon positions, and on the mathematics domain geometric spatial visualisation. GSA results found both male and female groups achieving a significant increase in their test scores on the overall GSA. Females made significant gains on the GSA mathematics domains, periodic patterns and cardinal directions, while males made significant gains on only the periodic patterns domain. Findings suggest that both scientific and mathematical understandings can be significantly improved for both sexes through the use of spatially focused, inquiry-oriented curriculum such as REAL.

Baviskar Hartle Whitney - IJSE 2009

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, Volume 31, Issue 4 March 2009 , pages 541 - 550

Sandhya N. Baviskar; R. Todd Hartle; Tiffany Whitney

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.

This article was previously posted when published online.

Bouwma-Gearhart Stewart Brown - IJSE 2009

Student Misapplication of a Gas-like Model to Explain Particle Movement in Heated Solids: Implications for curriculum and instruction towards students' creation and revision of accurate explanatory models
International Journal of Science Education

Jana Bouwma-Gearhart; James Stewart; Keffrelyn Brown

Understanding the particulate nature of matter (PNM) is vital for participating in many areas of science. We assessed 11 students' atomic/molecular-level explanations of real-world phenomena after their participation in a modelling-based PNM unit. All 11 students offered a scientifically acceptable model regarding atomic/molecular behaviour in non-heated solids. Yet, 10 of 11 students expressed the view that, in response to added heat energy, atoms/molecules in a solid increase in movement to a degree beyond what is scientifically accepted. These students attributed a gas-like model of atomic/molecular movement to situations involving a heated solid. Of the students who held two conflicting models of atomic/molecular movement in solids, almost all provided justification for doing so, indicating their holding of the conflicting models was unproblematic. These findings can be interpreted to mean that students may drop constraints of certain scientific representations and apply, assess, or revise models when explaining unfamiliar phenomena. In fact, we believe students may develop conflicting causal models as a result of misperceptions they acquire, in part, during classroom instruction regarding atomic/molecular movement. However, our findings may also be interpreted as an incidence of student model development that may later aid their understanding of a more complex model, one that involves substantial sub-atomic electron movement to account for heat transfer in solids. Whether or not this is the case remains to be seen. Implications for student learning and instruction are discussed.

Eshach - IJSE 2009

An Analysis of Conceptual Flow Patterns and Structures in the Physics Classroom
International Journal of Science Education

Haim Eshach

The aim of the current research is to characterize the conceptual flow processes occurring in whole-class dialogic discussions with a high level of interanimation; in the present case, of a high-school class learning about image creation on plane mirrors. Using detailed chains of interaction and conceptual flow discourse maps—both developed for the purpose of this research—the classroom discourse, audio-taped and transcribed verbatim, was analyzed and three discussion structures were revealed: accumulation around budding foci concepts, zigzag between foci concepts, and concept tower. These structures as well as two additional factors, suggest the Two-Space Model of the whole class discussion proposed in the present article. The two additional factors are: (1) the teacher intervention; and (2) the conceptual barriers observed among the students, namely, materialistic thinking, and the tendency to attribute “unique characteristics” to optical devices. This model might help teachers to prepare and conduct efficient whole-class discussions which accord with the social constructivist perspective of learning.

Ogan-Bekiroglu Akkoç - IJSME 2009

Preservice Teachers’ Instructional Beliefs And Examination Of Consistency Between Beliefs And Practices
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education

Feral Ogan-Bekiroglu and Hatice Akkoç

The purposes of this study were to determine preservice physics teachers’ instructional beliefs and to investigate the relationship between their beliefs and practices. The theoretical framework was based on the combination Haney & McArthur’s (Science Education, 86(6):783–802, 2002) research and Ford’s (1992) motivation systems theory. A multicase study design was utilized for the research in order to focus on a belief–practice relationship within several examples. Semistructured interviews, observations, and preservice teachers’ written documents were used to collect data. Results showed that most preservice teachers held instructional beliefs aligned with constructivist philosophy. Some of the preservice teachers’ beliefs were consistent with their practices while some of them presented different practices from their beliefs in different placements.

Brandon Young Pottenger Taum - IJSME 2009

The Inquiry Science Implementation Scale: Development And Applications
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education

Paul R. Brandon, Donald B. Young, Francis M. Pottenger and Alice K. Taum

Instruments for evaluating the implementation of inquiry science in K-12 classrooms are necessary if evaluators and researchers are to know the extent to which programs are implemented as intended and the extent to which inquiry science teaching accounts for student learning. For evaluators and researchers to be confident about the quality of these instruments, information about their development and validation—particularly about teacher self-report instruments—must be available. In this article, we present the Inquiry Science Implementation Scale, describe the instrument’s development and the results of analyses of the validity and reliability of data collected with it, and discuss the possible uses of the instrument.

Everett Otto Luera - IJSME 2009

Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Growth in Knowledge of Models in a Science Capstone Course
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education

Susan A. Everett , Charlotte A. Otto and Gail R. Luera

We used four different methods to determine the best means of assessing over 200 preservice elementary teachers’ growth in knowledge of models and their use in K-8 classrooms while participating in the Science Capstone course that focused on the unifying themes of models in science. Each assessment method probed a different aspect of models (from growth in scientific use to need for greater emphasis on the role and use of models) and each used a different method of gathering student responses (Likert-type responses to concept maps). We determined that growth in student knowledge was demonstrated by all instruments, but some instruments were more useful than others for determining preservice elementary teachers’ prior knowledge as well as growth in knowledge of models necessary for K-8 teachers.

Leinonen Räsänen Asikainen Hirvonen - EJP 2009

Students' pre-knowledge as a guideline in the teaching of introductory thermal physics at university
Eur. J. Phys. 30 593-604

Risto Leinonen, Esa Räsänen, Mervi Asikainen and Pekka E Hirvonen

This study concentrates on analysing university students' pre-knowledge of thermal physics. The students' understanding of the basic concepts and of the adiabatic compression of an ideal gas was studied at the start of an introductory level course. A total of 48 students participated in a paper-and-pencil test, and analysis of the responses revealed that they had several kinds of problems. They did not differentiate between concepts, confusing in particular the concepts of temperature, internal energy and heat. The students also seemed to have serious problems in applying the first law of thermodynamics: they were frequently more likely to use the ideal gas law rather than the first law, e.g., in the case of adiabatic compression, even though it cannot provide a proper explanation of the phenomenon. More detailed analysis revealed that the underlying reasons for many of the problems detected were based on an inadequate understanding of micro-level models of substance. At the upper secondary level, students have acquired an impression of how particles move, vibrate and interact, but they have not learnt how to apply the ideas and concepts of the micro-models in a scientific manner. All of this means that university teachers need to exercise great care in designing their teaching. Explicit recommendations for teachers to take into account both the findings of this research project and also students' pre-knowledge are presented in the discussion section at the end of this paper.


Dykstra Sweet - AJP 2009

Conceptual development about motion and force in elementary and middle school students

Am. J. Phys. 77, 468 (2009)

Dewey I. Dykstra, Jr. and Dale R. Sweet

Methods of physics education research were applied to find what kinds of changes in 4th, 6th, and 8th grade student understanding of motion can occur and at what age. Such findings are necessary for the physics community to effectively discharge its role in advising and assisting pre-college physics education. Prior to and after instruction the students were asked to carefully describe several demonstrated accelerated motions. Most pre-instruction descriptions were of the direction of motion only. After instruction, many more of the students gave descriptions of the motion as continuously changing. Student responses to the diagnostic and to the activity materials revealed the presence of a third “snapshot” view of motion not discussed in the literature. The 4th and 6th grade students gave similar pre-instructional descriptions of the motion, but the 4th grade students did not exhibit the same degree of change in descriptions after instruction. Our findings suggest that students as early as 6th grade can develop changes in ideas about motion needed to construct Newtonian-like ideas about force. Students' conceptions about motion change little under traditional physics instruction from these grade levels through college level.


Bailey Finkelstein - PRST-PER 2009

Development of quantum perspectives in modern physics

Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010106 (2009)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010106

Charles Baily and Noah D. Finkelstein

Introductory undergraduate courses in classical physics stress a perspective that can be characterized as realist; from this perspective, all physical properties of a classical system can be simultaneously specified and thus determined at all future times. Such a perspective can be problematic for introductory quantum physics students, who must develop new perspectives in order to properly interpret what it means to have knowledge of quantum systems. We document this evolution in student thinking in part through pre- and post-instruction evaluations using the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey. We further characterize variations in student epistemic and ontological commitments by examining responses to two essay questions, coupled with responses to supplemental quantum attitude statements. We find that, after instruction in modern physics, many students are still exhibiting a realist perspective in contexts where a quantum-mechanical perspective is needed. We further find that this effect can be significantly influenced by instruction, where we observe variations for courses with differing learning goals. We also note that students generally do not employ either a realist or a quantum perspective in a consistent manner.


Thornton Kuhl Cummings Marx - PRST-PER 2009

Comparing the force and motion conceptual evaluation and the force concept inventory
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010105 (2009)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010105

Ronald K Thornton, Dennis Kuhl, Karen Cummings, and Jeffrey Marx

In this paper we compare and contrast student’s pretest/post-test performance on the Halloun-Hestenes force concept inventory (FCI) to the Thornton-Sokoloff force and motion conceptual evaluation (FMCE). Both tests are multiple-choice assessment instruments whose results are used to characterize how well a first term, introductory physics course promotes conceptual understanding. However, the two exams have slightly different content domains, as well as different representational formats; hence, one exam or the other might better fit the interests of a given instructor or researcher. To begin the comparison, we outline how to determine a single-number score for the FMCE and present ranges of normalized gains on this exam. We then compare scores on the FCI and the FMCE for approximately 2000 students enrolled in the Studio Physics course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute over a period of eight years (1998–2006) that encompassed significant evolution of the course and many different instructors. We found that the mean score on the FCI is significantly higher than the mean score on the FMCE, however there is a very strong relationship between scores on the two exams. The slope of a best fit line drawn through FCI versus FMCE data is approximately 0.54, and the correlation coefficient is approximately r=0.78 , for preinstructional and postinstructional testings combined. In spite of this strong relationship, the assessments measure different normalized gains under identical circumstances. Additionally, students who scored well on one exam did not necessarily score well on the other. We use this discrepancy to uncover some subtle, but important, differences between the exams. We also present ranges of normalized gains for the FMCE in a variety of instructional settings.


Krusberg - arxiv.org 2009

Physics education research: Resources for middle school science teachers

Zosia A. C. Krusberg

This resource letter intends to provide middle school science teachers with a collection of resources to aid them in planning and implementing a physical science curriculum. The resources are in the form of books, websites, journals, and organizations.

MCW comment: This isn't a PER publication, despite what the title says, as it is seriously lacking in links to PER results. I post it as an example of a quick'n'dirty resource letter in a public forum, a way to share meaningful information for general use. Perhaps this could inspire someone else to do the same work in PER...


O'Brien Thompson - Physics Teacher 2009

Effectiveness of Ninth-Grade Physics in Maine: Conceptual Understanding
Phys. Teach. 47, 234 (2009)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.3098211

Michael J. O'Brien and John R. Thompson

The Physics First movement—teaching a true physics course to ninth-grade students—is gaining popularity in high schools. There are several different rhetorical arguments for and against this movement, and it is quite controversial in physics education. However, there is no actual evidence to assess the success, or failure, of this substantial shift in the science teaching sequence. We have undertaken a comparison study of physics classes taught in ninth- and 12th-grade classes in Maine. Comparisons of student understanding and gains with respect to mechanics concepts were made with excerpts from well-known multiple-choice surveys and individual student interviews. Results indicate that both populations begin physics courses with similar content knowledge and specific difficulties, but when learning concepts, ninth-graders are more sensitive to the instructional method used.

This article was previously posted on PERticles as a pre-preprint here


Marshall Hagedorn O’Connor - PRST-PER 2009

Anatomy of a physics test: Validation of the physics items on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010104 (2009)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010104

Jill A. Marshall; Eric A. Hagedorn; Jerry O’Connor

We report the results of an analysis of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) designed to determine whether the TAKS is a valid indicator of whether students know and can do physics at the level necessary for success in future coursework, STEM careers, and life in a technological society. We categorized science items from the 2003 and 2004 10th and 11th grade TAKS by content area(s) covered, knowledge and skills required to select the correct answer, and overall quality. We also analyzed a 5000 student sample of item-level results from the 2004 11th grade exam, performing full-information factor analysis, calculating classical test indices, and determining each item's response curve using item response theory. Triangulation of our results revealed strengths and weaknesses of the different methods of analysis. The TAKS was found to be only weakly indicative of physics preparation and we make recommendations for increasing the validity of standardized physics testing.


Admin comments

Hi all,

I neglected to inform regular readers that the blog has expanded. I'm happy that Joss Ives approached me at the AAPT meeting in Chicago and asked to help out - it means that papers will get posted more regularly, and we can share the wealth of research in physics education more effectively. Thanks, Joss!

The present separation of duties has Joss doing the "basics," meaning AJP, PRST-PER, and so on. I'll be posting articles from the European side of things (L&I, IJSE, EJP, etc.) as well as those articles I come across when trawling for information in the math ed, cognition, development, and ed psych journals. Man, there's some fascinating stuff out there. Anyone doing work in, say, vectors (like we are at Maine) can find some pretty awesome articles on perception, embodied mathematics, and more. Totally awesome.

It's obvious from the papers I post here that I feel strongly about the broad view of what PER is. I hope the richness of postings in this blog is of use to people. If I am not finding what you know about, send it to me. The richer base our research community has, the better work we can do. My hope is that those not reading widely enough (which is, you know, everyone) will learn to expect more, to seek more, so that they end up unsatisfied with the way things have been in the past. Everyone gets richer, in the long run, as long as we strive to get there.

As an aside, I'm out of the country for a while, so I won't be posting any of the great articles which I'd like to post but haven't had time for. Sorry. Expect more after March 16. Thanks for your patience.


Kapon Ganiel Eylon - IJSE 2009

Explaining the Unexplainable: Translated Scientific Explanations (TSE) in public physics lectures
International Journal of Science Education online
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690802566632

Shulamit Kapon; Uri Ganiel; Bat Sheva Eylon

This paper deals with the features and design of explanations in public physics lectures. It presents the findings from a comparative study of three exemplary public physics lectures, given by practicing physicists who are acknowledged as excellent public lecturers. The study uses three different perspectives: the lecture, the lecturer, and the audience (high school physics teachers and students). It concludes with a grounded theory explanatory framework for public physics lectures. The framework demonstrates that a “Translated Scientific Explanation” (TSE) draws upon four clusters of explanatory categories: analogical approach, story, knowledge organization, and content. The framework suggests how the lecturer fits the content of the presentation to the audience's knowledge throughout the lecture, taking into account the listeners' lack of necessary prior knowledge.

Talanquer - IJSE 2009

On Cognitive Constraints and Learning Progressions: The case of “structure of matter”
International Journal of Science Education online publication
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690802578025

Vicente Talanquer

Based on the analysis of available research on students' alternative conceptions about the particulate nature of matter, we identified basic implicit assumptions that seem to constrain students' ideas and reasoning on this topic at various learning stages. Although many of these assumptions are interrelated, some of them seem to change or lose/gain strength independently from one another. Overlapping or competing presuppositions about the structure, properties, and dynamics of matter may be able to coexist at any given level, particularly at intermediate stages of expertise. Our results allowed us to suggest common paths in the transition from naive through novice to expert along relevant dimensions related to the structure and properties of chemical substances. The identification of these cognitive constraints provides a useful framework that educators can use to better understand and even predict many of their students' learning difficulties. It can also assist in the design and organisation of learning experiences and assessment tools that recognise and take advantage of the most likely trajectories towards expertise (learning progressions) followed by many students.

Ramadas - IJSE 2009

Visual and Spatial Modes in Science Learning
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 3 February 2009 , pages 301 - 318

Jayashree Ramadas

This paper surveys some major trends from research on visual and spatial thinking coming from cognitive science, developmental psychology, science literacy, and science studies. It explores the role of visualisation in creativity, in building mental models, and in the communication of scientific ideas, in order to place these findings in the context of science education research and practice.

Subramaniam Padalkar - IJSE 2009

Visualisation and Reasoning in Explaining the Phases of the Moon
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 3 February 2009 , pages 395 - 417
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690802595805

K. Subramaniam; Shamin Padalkar

In this study, we examine how subjects set up, transform, and reason with models that they establish on the basis of known facts as they seek to explain a familiar everyday phenomenon—the phases of the moon. An interview schedule was designed to elicit subjects' reasoning, and in the case where explanations were mistaken, to induce a change in explanation. Detailed interviews of eight participants were videotaped and their reasoning analysed to highlight the difficulties encountered, the interaction between physical and geometrical aspects, simplification and idealisation processes, interplay between facts, concepts and visualisation, and the use of external visualisations through gestures and diagrams. We suggest that visualisation is an important process in science learning, and point to the importance of developing among students the ability to work with diagrams.

Reiner - IJSE 2009

Sensory Cues, Visualization and Physics Learning
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 3 February 2009 , pages 343 - 364
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690802595789

Miriam Reiner

Bodily manipulations, such as juggling, suggest a well-synchronized physical interaction as if the person were a physics expert. The juggler uses “knowledge” that is rooted in bodily experience, to interact with the environment. Such enacted bodily knowledge is powerful, efficient, predictive, and relates to sensory perception of the dynamics of objects. This paper describes results of an empirical study in physics learning, aimed at exploring links between sensory input, visual representations, and corresponding conceptual learning in physics. The central finding is that through sensory interaction (e.g., touch, vision) with a physical system in the physics laboratory, learners spontaneously generate a novel reference-system of pictorial representations, typical to the situation explored. Results show that in collaborative hands-on problem-solving in physics, a pictorial referential communication system is generated. Elements of the pictorial communication system were found to be one of three: photographic, metaphoric, or symbolic. The constituents of the communication system are socially shared, hence valid, are used repeatedly when similar experience happens, therefore consistent. Thus visual-spatial representations of non-explicit knowledge turn into pictorial representations for communication. It is powerful because it allows access and retrieval of tacit knowledge, inaccessible by symbolic interaction.

Ibrahim Buffler Lubben - JRST 2009

Profiles of freshman physics students' views on the nature of science
J Res Sci Teach 46: 248-264, 2009
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.20219

Bashirah Ibrahim, Andy Buffler, Fred Lubben

The views on various aspects of the nature of science (NOS) of 179 novice undergraduate physics students were investigated using six open-ended, written probes. These views were consolidated within compact NOS profiles, which were designed based on the students' responses to the probes. These profiles may be understood as sets of key descriptors, which represented the variation in the views of individual students in a succinct way. The views of 86% of the sample were found to be represented by four profiles, each containing five descriptors. The consequences for the teaching and learning of tertiary science, and advantages for linking NOS views to other research observables were explored.

Nielson Nashon Anderson - JRST 2009

Metacognitive engagement during field-trip experiences: A case study of students in an amusement park physics program
J Res Sci Teach 46: 265-288, 2009
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.20266

Wendy S. Nielsen, Samson Nashon, David Anderson

This article reports on a study that investigated students' metacognitive engagement in both out-of-school and classroom settings, as they participated in an amusement park physics program. Students from two schools that participated in the program worked in groups to collectively solve novel physics problems that engaged their individual metacognition. Their conversations and behavioral dispositions during problem-solving were digitally audio-recorded on devices that they wore or placed on the tables where groups worked on the assigned physics problems. The students also maintained reflection journals on the strategies they employed to manage their own understanding as well as learning processes. Prior to the amusement park physics discourse, the students completed a specially developed questionnaire instrument. This provided signposts of the students' metacognitive engagement during group problem-solving at the park and subsequent related physics learning tasks back in the classroom. This data, added to field notes arising from observations, and formal and informal interviews during post-visit learning activities provided the data corpus on the students' metacognitive engagement. Analysis of this data revealed three types of metacognitive engagement during group learning tasks: collaborative and consensus-seeking, highly argumentative, and eclectic, resulting from high levels of dissonance. In both cases, evidence of individual students' deeper understandings, which manifested through students' cognitive and social behaviors, demonstrated the invocation of metacognition to varying degrees. The novel physics problems tackled by the students created situations where discrepancies between their prior knowledge and the direct experiences enabled them to explicate their thinking through dispositions of behavior. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Sandoval - JLS 2009

In Defense of Clarity in the Study of Personal Epistemology
Journal of the Learning Sciences, Volume 18, Issue 1 January 2009 , pages 150 - 161
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10508400802581700

William A. Sandoval

Andrew Elby (this issue) argues that researchers in the field of personal epistemology should beware insistence on a narrow definition of epistemology to guide this work. His argument is a response to suggestions (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; Sandoval, 2005) that the study of personal epistemology should focus on people's views about knowledge and knowing and not conflate those with views about learning. His main concern is that learners' views about knowledge and their views about learning may, in fact, be conflated and that an insistence on definitional clarity could lead to a mischaracterization of cognitive structures. In this response I argue that clarity in the definition of theoretical constructs does not imply exclusion of views about learning from the study of personal epistemology. Furthermore, given the history of this area of research, failing to more clearly define our constructs makes real theoretical progress difficult.

Elby - JLS 2009

Defining Personal Epistemology: A Response to Hofer & Pintrich (1997) and Sandoval (2005)
Journal of the Learning Sciences, Volume 18, Issue 1 January 2009 , pages 138 - 149
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10508400802581684

Andrew Elby

Some researchers, including B. K. Hofer and P. R. Pintrich (1997) and W. A. Sandoval (2005), argue for defining personal epistemology as views about the nature of knowledge and knowing but not views about the nature of learning. Others continue using a more expansive definition of personal epistemology that includes views about learning. I argue that the scope of personal epistemology should not be decided entirely a priori. If people's views about the nature of knowing and knowledge turn out to be separable from (despite being intertwined with) their views about the nature of learning, then it makes sense to define 2 separate areas of study corresponding to those 2 separable sets of psychological constructs. From some theoretical perspectives, however, empirical results may support the interpretation that views about knowledge are inseparably entangled with views about learning. In that case, excluding views about learning from personal epistemology obscures rather than elucidates the content and cognitive structure of students' views. To be clear, I do not think the community should decide, now, to etch “views about the nature of learning” into the definition of personal epistemology. I argue instead that it is more productive not to converge on a definition until further empirical and theoretical progress points us toward the best way to “cut up [nature] … along its natural joints” (Plato, 1995, p. 64).

Lindstrøm Sharma - PRST-PER 2009

Link maps and map meetings: Scaffolding student learning
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010102 (2009) [11 pages]
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010102

Christine Lindstrøm and Manjula D. Sharma

With student numbers decreasing and traditional teaching methods having been found inefficient, it is widely accepted that alternative teaching methods need to be explored in tertiary physics education. In 2006 a different teaching environment was offered to 244 first year students with little or no prior formal instruction in physics. Students were invited to attend additional enrichment classes 1 h a week called map meetings. The focus of these classes was a different type of visual presentation of physics material called link maps. Link maps explicitly show the key concepts covered in lectures and how these interrelate to help novices establish their physics schemata. In each map meeting the link map for the different topic was interactively discussed by the researcher before the students worked on problems in groups using the link map. The class ended with the researcher going through one problem, talking aloud about how to logically attack it. The results were promising. Each week about 20% of the class voluntarily attended map meetings whereas 22% reported that they did not attend due to timetable clashes. Two questionnaires revealed that students thought the classes were helpful for gaining an overview of physics and for developing their problem solving abilities. In the final examination the 32 students who had attended at least eight out of ten map meetings achieved, on average, 9 points out of 90 better in the examination (p=0.004) than a comparison group (N=40) with similar academic background which had not attended map meetings. The results of this study suggest that map meetings are a valuable learning environment for physics novices. Further investigations are currently being undertaken.

Sayre Heckler - PRST-PER 2009

Peaks and decays of student knowledge in an introductory E&M course
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 013101 (2009)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.013101

Eleanor C. Sayre and Andrew F. Heckler

A common format for assessment of learning is pretesting and post-testing. In this study, we collect student test data several times per week throughout a course, allowing for the measurement of the changes in student knowledge with a time resolution on the order of a few days. To avoid the possibility of test-retest effects, separate and quasirandom subpopulations of students are tested on a variety of tasks. We report on data taken in a calculus-based introductory E&M class populated primarily by engineering majors. Unsurprisingly for a traditional introductory course, there is little change in many conceptual questions. However, the data suggest that some student performance peaks and decays rapidly during a quarter, a pattern consistent with memory research yet unmeasurable by pretesting and post-testing. In addition, it appears that some course topics can interfere with prior knowledge, decreasing performance on questions related to earlier topics in the course.

Gire Jones Price - PRST-PER 2009

Characterizing the epistemological development of physics majors
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010103 (2009)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010103

Elizabeth Gire, Barbara Jones, Ed Price

Students in introductory physics courses are likely to have views about physics that differ from those of experts. However, students who continue to study physics eventually become experts themselves. Presumably these students either possess or develop more expertlike views. To investigate this process, the views of introductory physics students majoring in physics are compared with the views of introductory physics students majoring in engineering. In addition, the views of physics majors are assessed at various stages of degree progress. The Colorado learning attitudes about science survey is used to evaluate students’ views about physics, and students’ overall survey scores and responses to individual survey items are analyzed. Beginning physics majors are significantly more expertlike than nonmajors in introductory physics courses, and this high level of sophistication is consistent for most of undergraduate study.


Henderson Beach Famiano - AJP 2009

Promoting instructional change via co-teaching
American Journal of Physics, Volume 77, Number 3 (March 2009), pp. 274-283

Charles Henderson, Andrea Beach, Michael Famiano

Physics Education Research (PER) has made significant progress in developing effective instructional strategies, but disseminating the background knowledge and strategies to other faculty has proven difficult. Co-teaching is a promising and cost-effective alternative to traditional professional development which may be applicable in particular situations. We discuss the theoretical background of co-teaching and describe our initial experience with it. A new instructor (Famiano) co-taught an introductory calculus-based physics course with an instructor experienced in PER-based reforms (Henderson). The pair taught within the course structure typically used by Henderson and met regularly to discuss instructional decisions. An outsider (Beach) conducted separate interviews with each instructor and observed several class sessions. Classroom observations show an immediate use of PER-based instructional practices by the new instructor. Interviews show a significant shift in the new instructor's beliefs about teaching and intentions of future use of PER-based instructional approaches.

An earlier version of the article was posted on arxiv.org

Wittman - arxiv.org 2009

Shaping Attitudes Toward Science in an Introductory Astronomy Class

D. Wittman (UC Davis)

At many universities, astronomy is a popular way for non-science majors to fulfill a general education requirement. Because general-education astronomy may be the only college-level science course taken by these students, it is the last chance to shape the science attitudes of these future journalists, teachers, politicians, and voters. I report on an attempt to measure and induce changes in science attitudes in my general-education astronomy course. I describe construction of the attitude survey, classroom activities designed to influence attitudes, and give numerical results indicating a significant improvement. In contrast, the literature on attitudes in introductory physics courses generally reports stagnation or decline. I briefly comment on some plausible explanations for this difference.