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.