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.


Rojas - arxiv.org 2009

On the teaching and learning of physics: A Criticism and a Systemic Approach
arXiv:0902.1151v1 [physics.ed-ph]

Sergio Rojas

The amount of published research in Physics Education Research (PER) shows, on one hand, an increasing interest in the design and development of high performance physics teaching strategies, and, on the other hand, it tries to understand plausible ways on which the brain processes scientific information so that scientific thinking skills could be taught more effectively. As physics is a subject in which mathematical and conceptual reasoning can not be separated, instructors of physics face the problem of finding suitable advise on the most effective methods of teaching physics (i.e. how much time should be spent on intuitive conceptual reasoning and how much time in developing quantitative reasoning, and how to teach both in a unitary way). In spite the important efforts made by the PER community, the published results are overwhelming and confusing for the physics instructors in the sense that the conclusions that have arisen in those articles are in some instances controversial and far from being conclusive in pointing out a particular strategy to overcome the afore mentioned problem. Accordingly, based on the analysis of published PER work, we'll be arguing that one of the major difficulties to overcome in the teaching of physics could be associated to the lack of a consistent and coherent methodological framework for teaching which integrates both aspects, conceptual and mathematical reasoning, in a systemic way of thinking. We will be presenting a set of plausible steps that could be applied to tackle the aforementioned difficulty.


Black Wittmann - arxiv.org 2009

Understanding the use of two integration methods on separable first order differential equations
arXiv:0902.0748, submitted to Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research

Katrina E. Black, Michael C. Wittmann

We present evidence from three student interactions in which two types of common solution methods for solving simple first-order differential equations are used. We describe these using the language of resources, considering epistemic games as particular pathways of solutions along resource graphs containing linked procedural and conceptual resources. Using transcript data, we define several procedural resources, show how they can be organized into two facets of a previously described epistemic game, and produce a resource graph that allows visualization of this portion of the epistemic games. By representing two correct mathematical procedures in terms of shared resources, we help clarify the types of thinking in which students engage when learning to apply mathematical reasoning to physics and illustrate how a "failure to connect" two ideas often hinders students' successful problem solving.


Hayes Wittmann - arxiv.org 2009

The role of sign in students' modeling of scalar equations
arXiv:0901.4912v1 [physics.ed-ph], to be published in The Physics Teacher

Kate Hayes, Michael C. Wittmann

We describe students revising the mathematical form of physics equations to match the physical situation they are describing, even though their revision violates physical laws. In an unfamiliar air resistance problem, a majority of students in a sophomore level mechanics class at some point wrote Newton's Second Law as F = -ma; they were using this form to ensure that the sign of the force pointed in a direction consistent with the chosen coordinate system while assuming that some variables have only positive value. We use one student's detailed explanation to suggest that students' issues with variables are context-dependent, and that much of their reasoning is useful for productive instruction.