Valerie K. Otero, PhD
My research explores the conceptual
development of students in student-centered learning environments. I am
interested in the evolution of the system as a whole, including students,
tools, teachers, course materials, and the interactions among these components.
Another current research interest stems from experience working with prospective
and practicing K-12 teachers. Reform methods often encourage the elicitation
of students' prior knowledge, but several different notions of what to
do with that prior knowledge exist within the community of educational
practitioners and researchers. I am currently working to understand how
prospective and practicing teachers conceive of students' prior knowledge
and how they capitalize on it to empower students to inform their own
teaching and as a resource on which students can build.
The Constructing Physics Understanding In a Computer
Supported Learning Environment Project (CPU Project)
In 1991, I began a five-year, NSF-funded project with Fred Goldberg, Patricia
Heller, and colleagues. The purpose of the project was to develop materials
for a 3-year workshop that could model student-centered pedagogy for teaching
physics. The workshop was intended for high school teachers and college
professors. During the pilot phase of the project, we implemented these
modules in our course for prospective elementary teachers. My doctoral
research stemmed from the observations made during the first two years
of implementation in a physics course for prospective elementary teachers.
Students were videotaped as they worked in groups for the purpose of understanding
the role of the computer simulator versus laboratory apparatus in students
construction of physics knowledge, and the role of the construction of
students knowledge in shaping the social and material learning environment.
(For more information on the CPU Project see http://cpuproject.sdsu.edu)
Constructing Physics Understanding for Prospective
and Practicing Elementary Teachers
In 2001, I began a five-year, NSF-funded project with Fred Goldberg from
San Diego State University, and Steve Robinson from Tennessee Tech University.
The project builds off the needs that were recognized during implementation
of the CPU Project. The purpose of the project is to develop a three-tiered
curriculum/professional development package for teaching physics to prospective
and practicing elementary teachers, for thinking about students
thinking, and for recognizing and using students prior knowledge.
The third part of the package consists of professional development materials
for physics instructors and professional development providers for the
curriculum stated above. Research that accompanies this curriculum involves
understanding how college physics faculty and prospective and practicing
elementary teachers conceive of student prior and evolving knowledge.
This understanding will inform the development and iterations of the new
curriculum as well as elementary methods instruction in the same way that
understanding students conceptions in physics has informed the communitys
physics curriculum-development over the past 30 years.