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.