O'Brien Thompson - arxiv.org 2009

Effectiveness of Ninth-Grade Physics in Maine: Conceptual Understanding
arXiv:0901.4692v1 [physics.ed-ph], to be published in The Physics Teacher

Michael O'Brien, John 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 that in the learning of the concepts ninth graders are more sensitive to the instructional method used.

UPDATE: This paper has been published in The Physics Teacher. Click here for more.


PERC Proceedings 2008

PERC Proceedings 2008

There's a ton of good stuff here. Check it out. Sorry I haven't posted it sooner.

PERC Proceedings 2001-2008

Having a hard time finding past PERC Proceedings? Here are links to all of them, in a single location.
Click on the links to find out more about authors and editors.

2001, Rochester
Self-published proceedings

2002, Boise
Self-published proceedings

2003, Madison
AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 720

2004, Sacramento
AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 790

2005, Salt Lake City
AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 818

2006, Syracuse
AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 883

2007, Greensboro
AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 951

2008, Edmonton
AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 1064


Airey Linder - JRST 2009

A disciplinary discourse perspective on university science learning: Achieving fluency in a critical constellation of modes
J Res Sci Teach 46: 27–49, 2009

John Airey, Cedric Linder

In this theoretical article we use an interpretative study with physics undergraduates to exemplify a proposed characterization of student learning in university science in terms of fluency in disciplinary discourse. Drawing on ideas from a number of different sources in the literature, we characterize what we call “disciplinary discourse” as the complex of representations, tools and activities of a discipline, describing how it can be seen as being made up of various “modes”. For university science, examples of these modes are: spoken and written language, mathematics, gesture, images including pictures, graphs and diagrams, tools such as experimental apparatus and measurement equipment, and activities such as ways of working—both practice and praxis, analytical routines, actions, etc.. Using physics as an illustrative example, we discuss the relationship between the ways of knowing that constitute a discipline and the modes of disciplinary discourse used to represent this knowing. The data comes from stimulated recall interviews where physics undergraduates discuss their learning experiences during lectures. These interviews are used to anecdotally illustrate our proposed characterization of learning and its associated theoretical constructs. Students describe a repetitive practice aspect to their learning, which we suggest is necessary for achieving fluency in the various modes of disciplinary discourse. Here we found instances of discourse imitation, where students are seemingly fluent in one or more modes of disciplinary discourse without having related this to a teacherintended disciplinary way of knowing. The examples lead to the suggestion that fluency in a critical constellation of modes of disciplinary discourse may be a necessary though not always sufficient condition for gaining meaningful holistic access to disciplinary ways of knowing. One implication is that in order to be effective, science teachers need to know which modes are critical for an understanding of the material they wish to teach. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Hugenera Paulia Reussera Lopowsky Rakoczyc Kliemer - L&I 2009

Teaching patterns and learning quality in Swiss and German mathematics lessons
Learning and Instruction Volume 19, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 66-78

Isabelle Hugenera, Christine Paulia, Kurt Reussera, Frank Lipowskyb, Katrin Rakoczyc, and Eckhard Kliemec

Based on a coding of 39 videotaped three-lesson units on the introduction to the Pythagorean Theorem, three teaching patterns were identified: lecturing, developing based on a problem, and discovery based on a problem. The analysis showed no effect of the teaching patterns on student achievement, whereas effects were discovered on students' perceived learning quality. The discovery teaching pattern had negative effects on the emotional quality of learning. However, this pattern exhibited high degree of externally rated cognitive activation. The lecturing approach to the introduction to the Pythagorean Theorem supported students' self-perceived understanding.

Son Goldstone - C&I 2009

Contextualization in Perspective
Cognition and Instruction,27:1,51 — 89

Ji Y. Son; Robert L. Goldstone

Instruction abstracted from specific and concrete examples is frequently criticized for ignoring the context-dependent and perspectival nature of learning (e.g., Bruner, 1962, 1966; Greeno, 1997). Yet, in the effort to create personally interesting learning contexts, cognitive consequences have often been ignored. To examine what kinds of personalized contexts foster or hinder learning and transfer, three manipulations of perspective and context were employed to teach participants Signal Detection Theory (SDT). In all cases, application of SDT principles was negatively impacted by manipulations that encouraged participants to consider the perspective of the signal detector (the decision maker in SDT situations): by giving participants active detection experience (Experiment 1), biasing them to adopt a first-person rather than third-person perspective (Experiment 2), or framing the task in terms of a well-known celebrity (Experiment 3). These contexts run the risk of introducing goals and information that are specific to the detector’s point of view, resulting in sub-optimal understanding of SDT.

Inglis Mejia-Ramos - C&I 2009

The Effect of Authority on the Persuasiveness of Mathematical Arguments
Cognition and Instruction Volume 27, Number 1 (January 2009)

Matthew Inglis, Juan Pablo Mejia-Ramos

Three experiments are reported that investigate the extent to which an authority figure influences the level of persuasion undergraduate students and research-active mathematicians invest in mathematical arguments. We demonstrate that, in some situations, both students and researchers rate arguments as being more persuasive when they are associated with an expert mathematician than when the author is anonymous. We develop a model that accounts for these data by suggesting that, for both students and researchers, an authority figure only plays a role when there is already some uncertainty about the argument's mathematical status. Implications for pedagogy, and for future research, are discussed.

Ares Stroup Schademan - C&I 2009

The Power of Mediating Artifacts in Group-Level Development of Mathematical Discourses
Cognition and Instruction Volume 27, Number 1 (January 2009)

Nancy Ares, Walter Stroup, Alfred Schademan

A new generation of networked classroom technology immerses students and teachers in the group-level construction of powerful mathematical and scientific concepts. We examine these networks from a sociocultural point of view as a new form of mediating artifact. We present a mixed-method, microgenetic analysis to characterize students' appropriation of mathematical content and practice as mediated by the Participatory Simulations system. Central findings of the study are that networked activities provided the opportunity for students and the teacher to: (a) act on multiple representations, (b) create collectively a linked set of mathematical objects that they could examine and discuss together, and (c) exercise agency in the production of mathematical discourse and practice. These opportunities fostered the development of powerful mathematical discourse.

Ogan-Bekiroglu - IJSE

Assessing Assessment: Examination of pre-service physics teachers' attitudes towards assessment and factors affecting their attitudes
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31 Issue 1 2009

Feral Ogan-Bekiroglu

The purpose of this study was to determine pre-service physics teachers' attitudes towards assessment. It was also aimed to examine the factors affecting their attitudes. Two factors were considered. The first was difficulties that pre-service teachers experienced relating to assessment. The second factor was teachers' self-efficacy regarding their ability to assess. The difficulties were divided into external and internal. Internal difficulties depended on pre-service teachers' assessment skills and their subject matter knowledge, and represented the difficulties that they encountered during preparation and evaluation of assessment methods. External difficulties, on the other hand, depended on the external factors such as school policy and facilities that might affect pre-service teachers' classroom assessment implementation. A parallel mixed-methodology approach was utilized during the data collection and analysis. This paradigm combined both qualitative and quantitative methods to give both breadth and scope to the research. The pre-service physics teachers' general attitude towards assessment was determined as close to constructivist. Knowledge about the subject assessed and university entrance examination were found to be the common factors that affected pre-service teachers' predispositions for action. Conclusions carry implications for science teacher education in Turkey and other countries where educational reforms have been implemented.

Potgin Hazari Tai Sadler - Science Education 2009

Unraveling bias from student evaluations of their high school science teachers
Sci Ed 1-19, 2009

Geoff Potvin, Zahra Hazari, Robert H. Tai, Philip M. Sadler

In this study, the evaluation of high school biology, chemistry, and physics teachers by their students is examined according to the gender of the student and the gender of the teacher. Female teachers are rated significantly lower than male teachers by male students in all three disciplines, whereas female students underrate female teachers only in physics. Interestingly, physics is also the field that suffers the greatest lack of females and has been criticized most for its androcentric culture. The gender bias in teacher ratings persists even when accounting for academic performance, classroom experiences, and family support. Furthermore, male and female teachers in each discipline appear equally effective at preparing their students for future science study in college, suggesting that students have a discipline-specific gender bias. Such a bias may negatively impact female students and contribute to the loss of females in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Schwartz Sadler Sonnert Tai - Science Education 2008

Depth versus breadth: How content coverage in high school science courses relates to later success in college science coursework

Sci Ed 1-29, 2008

Marc S. Schwartz , Philip M. Sadler, Gerhard Sonnert, Robert H. Tai

This study relates the performance of college students in introductory science courses to the amount of content covered in their high school science courses. The sample includes 8310 students in introductory biology, chemistry, or physics courses in 55 randomly chosen U.S. colleges and universities. Students who reported covering at least 1 major topic in depth, for a month or longer, in high school were found to earn higher grades in college science than did students who reported no coverage in depth. Students reporting breadth in their high school course, covering all major topics, did not appear to have any advantage in chemistry or physics and a significant disadvantage in biology. Care was taken to account for significant covariates: socioeconomic variables, English and mathematics proficiency, and rigor of their preparatory high science course. Alternative operationalizations of depth and breadth variables result in very similar findings. We conclude that teachers should use their judgment to reduce coverage in high school science courses and aim for mastery by extending at least 1 topic in depth over an extended period of time. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Kost Pollock Finkelstein - PRST-PER 2009

Characterizing the gender gap in introductory physics

Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010101 (2009) [14 pages]

Lauren E. Kost, Steven J. Pollock, and Noah D. Finkelstein

Previous research [S. J. Pollock et al., Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 1 (2007)] showed that despite the use of interactive engagement techniques, the gap in performance between males and females on a conceptual learning survey persisted from pretest to post-test at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Such findings were counter to previously published work [M. Lorenzo et al., Am. J. Phys. 74, 118 (2006)]. This study begins by identifying a variety of other gender differences. There is a small but significant difference in the course grades of males and females. Males and females have significantly different prior understandings of physics and mathematics. Females are less likely to take high school physics than males, although they are equally likely to take high school calculus. Males and females also differ in their incoming attitudes and beliefs about physics. This collection of background factors is analyzed to determine the extent to which each factor correlates with performance on a conceptual post-test and with gender. Binned by quintiles, we observe that males and females with similar pretest scores do not have significantly different post-test scores (p>0.2) . The post-test data are then modeled using two regression models (multiple regression and logistic regression) to estimate the gender gap in post-test scores after controlling for these important prior factors. These prior factors account for about 70% of the observed gender gap. The results indicate that the gender gap exists in interactive physics classes at our institution but is largely associated with differences in previous physics and math knowledge and incoming attitudes and beliefs.

Liu Zhang Liang Fulmer Kim Yuan - Science Education 2008

Alignment between the physics content standard and the standardized test: A comparison among the United States-New York State, Singapore, and China-Jiangsu
Sci Ed 1-21, 2008

Xiufeng Liu, Baohui Zhang, Ling L. Liang, Gavin Fulmer, Beaumie Kim, Haiquan Yuan

Alignment between content standards and standardized tests is a significant issue to society, science pedagogy, and test validation. To better understand the issues related to alignment, this study compares the alignment in physics among three education systems: Jiangsu (China), New York State (United States), and Singapore. The same coding framework for content standards and standardized tests is used to compute the alignment indices in the three education systems. It was found that there was a statistically significant alignment between the New York content standard and the standardized test for physics, but there was not a statistically significant alignment for Chinese and Singapore physics. The insignificant alignment for Chinese and Singapore physics was due to a shift toward higher level cognitive reasoning skills from content standards to standardized tests. For Chinese physics, the insignificant alignment was also due to a heavier emphasis on electricity in the test than in the content standard. Both significant and insignificant alignments may result in desirable and undesirable effects on guiding classroom instruction. Thus, ongoing study of the alignment between a science content standard and the standardized test is necessary for any education system, and alignment studies may be used as a means of teacher professional development for improving student achievement. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Beatty Gerace - J Sci Ed Tech

Technology-Enhanced Formative Assessment: A Research-Based Pedagogy for Teaching Science with Classroom Response Technology
Journal of Science Education and Technology

Ian D. Beatty and William J. Gerace

Classroom response systems (CRSs) are a promising instructional technology, but most literature on CRS use fails to distinguish between technology and pedagogy, to define and justify a pedagogical perspective, or to discriminate between pedagogies. Technology-enhanced formative assessment (TEFA) is our pedagogy for CRS-based science instruction, informed by experience and by several traditions of educational research. In TEFA, four principles enjoin the practice of question-driven instruction, dialogical discourse, formative assessment, and meta-level communication. These are enacted via the question cycle, an iterative pattern of CRS-based questioning that can serve multiple instructional needs. TEFA should improve CRS use and help teachers “bridge the gap” between educational research findings and practical, flexible classroom strategies for science instruction.

Willoughby Gustafson - AJP 2009

Technology talks: Clickers and grading incentive in the large lecture hall
American Journal of Physics, Volume 77, Number 2 (February 2009), pp. 180-183

Shannon D. Willoughby, Eric Gustafson

Two sections of an introductory astronomy class were given different grading incentives for clicker participation for two consecutive semesters. In the high stakes classroom points were awarded only for correct answers, in contrast to the low stakes classroom in which points were awarded simply for participating. Self-formed groups of four students each were recorded in both sections several times during the spring 2007 semester and their conversations were transcribed and categorized into nine topics to analyze the variations between the sections. Performance on clicker questions and tendency to block vote were correlated with class grades and gains for the pre- and post-test scores on the Astronomy Diagnostic Test.

Stelzer Gladding Mestre Brookes - AJP 2009

Comparing the efficacy of multimedia modules with traditional textbooks for learning introductory physics content
American Journal of Physics, Volume 77, Number 2 (February 2009), pp. 184-190

Timothy Stelzer, Gary Gladding, Jose´ P. Mestre, David T. Brookes

We compared the efficacy of multimedia learning modules with traditional textbooks for the first few topics of a calculus-based introductory electricity and magnetism course. Students were randomly assigned to three groups. One group received the multimedia learning module presentations, and the other two received the presentations via written text. All students were then tested on their learning immediately following the presentations as well as 2 weeks later. The students receiving the multimedia learning modules performed significantly better on both tests than the students experiencing the text-based presentations.

an earlier version of this paper was posted on arxiv.org.