Papers

These are key papers and references that the SEI uses to guide instruction and material development.

Science Education Initiative Papers

Go to the SEI Research Tab to see papers resulting from CWSEI and CU-SEI research.

Greatest Hits:

These 6 papers were voted greatest hits by SEI staff and Science Teaching & Learning Fellows

The influence of experience and deliberate practice on the development of superior expert performance
K. Anders Ericsson
in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, Ch. 38, (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
This book chapter is a nice review of the studies on the role of deliberate practice on the development of expertise. The basic conclusion is that many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of deliberate practice: intense, long-term practice aimed at continued improvement of performance.

Inventing to Prepare for Future Learning: The Hidden Efficiency of Encouraging Original Student Production in Statistics Instruction
Daniel Schwartz and Taylor Martin
Cognition and Instruction, 22(2), 129–184 (2004).
This paper describes studies that demonstrate the value of invention activities for preparing students to learn from other resources (such as a lecture or written resource). CU-SEI, CWSEI, and Dan Schwartz produced a short "Teaching Expert Thinking" instructor's guidance on designing and using invention activities.

Test-Enhanced Learning; Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention
Henry Roediger and Jeffrey Karpicke
Psychological Science, Vol 17 Issue 3, pp. 249-255 (2006).

The authors studied the testing effect with educationally relevant materials and investigated whether testing facilitates learning only because tests offer an opportunity to restudy material. They found that on delayed tests, prior testing produced substantially greater retention than studying.

Memory and metamemory considerations in the training of human beings
Robert Bjork
In Metacognition: Knowing about knowing (pp.185-205), J. Metcalfe and A. Shimamura (Eds.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (1994).

This writing examines the contributors to non-optimal training, such as the trainer's & learner's misreading of progress toward long-term retention and differences between the conditions of training and conditions in the real-world environment.

Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students' Learning
Graham Gibbs and Claire Simpson
Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Issue 1, (2004-5).

This article is about how to design assessment that supports worthwhile learning. CWSEI produced a 2-pager instructor's guidance based on this paper.

The Wisdom of Practice: Lessons Learned from the Study of Highly Effective Tutors
Mark Lepper and Maria Woolverton
Improving academic achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education, Ch. 7, edited by J. Aronson, Academic Press, pp. 135-158, (2002).
A summary of studies on what factors make individual tutoring such a successful educational method. Many of the practices identified can be implemented in the classroom.

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Interactive Engagement:

White Paper on Promising Practices in Undergraduate STEM Education
Jeffrey Froyd
The National Academies Board on Science Education commissioned paper for the Evidence on Promising Practices in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education project (2008).
This white paper offers a set of promising educational practices and evaluates them against two sets of standards: (1) ease of implementation and (2) evidence for positive influences on student learning and persistence. The practice that ranks the highest against the combination of both standards is Designing In-class Activities to Actively Engage Students.

A Study of Educational Simulations Part I - Engagement and Learning
Part II - Interface Design
Wendy Adams, Sam Reid, Ron LeMaster, Sarah McKagan, Katherine Perkins, Michael Dubson, and Carl Wieman
Journal of Interactive Learning Research (JILR) Vol 19(3), pp. 397-419 (2008), and Vol 19(4), pp. 551-577 (2008).
A thorough study of design and testing of interactive simulations, describing the PhET design process, what features are effective for engaging students in educationally productive interactions, and the underlying principles which support empirically developed guidelines. In part II, they describe in detail the design features used to create an intuitive simulation for students to use.

Effectiveness of different tutorial recitation teaching methods and its implications for TA training
Kathleen M. Koenig, Robert J. Endorf, and Gregory A. Braun
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research V. 3, 010104 (2007).
A comparative study of student understanding for students who attended recitation classes that used different teaching methods.

Classroom demonstrations: Learning tools or entertainment?
Catherine H. Crouch, Adam P. Fagen, J. Paul Callan, and Eric Mazur
American Journal of Physics, V. 72, N. 6, pp. 835-838 (2004).
This study compared student learning from different modes of presenting classroom demonstrations. They find that students who passively observe demonstrations understand the underlying concepts no better than students who do not see the demonstration at all. Students who predict the demonstration outcome before seeing it, however, display significantly greater understanding.

Why May Students Fail to Learn from Demonstrations? A Social Practice Perspective on Learning in Physics
Wolff-Michael Roth, Campbell J. McRobbie, Keith B. Lucas, and Sylvie Boutonné
Journal of Research in Science Teaching, V. 34, N. 5, pp. 509–533 (1997).

This study uses observational data, videotapes of classroom transactions, interviews with students and the teacher, and students' notebooks to find out why students fail to learn from classroom demonstrations.

A Longitudinal study of student conceptual understanding in electricity and magnetism
Steven Pollock
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research 5, 020110 (2009).
This paper shows that 1) conceptual learning is retained, 2) a better conceptual foundation is established in introductory courses by proven pedagogical methods and activities, and 3) students with a better foundation in intro courses do somewhat better on high level quantitative problem solving.

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clickers

Peer Instcuction: Engaging Students One-on-One, All At Once
Catherine H. Crouch, Jessica Watkins, Adam P. Fagen, and Eric Mazur
Research-Based Reform of University Physics, 1 (1) (2007).
This is a thorough article that covers techniques of peer instruction, design principles and practices, and lots of data on results.

Clickers in the Large Classroom: Current Research and Best-Practice Tips
Jane E. Caldwell
CBE—Life Sciences Education, 6(1), pp. 9-20 (2007).
A good review of research on clicker use, particularly in the context of teaching in the life sciences, including a set of guidelines for writing good questions and a list of best-practice tips.

Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance on In-Class Concept Questions
Michelle Smith, William Wood, Wendy Adams, Carl Wieman, Jenny Knight, Nancy Guild, and Tin Tin Su
Science, Vol. 323 no. 5910, pp. 122-124 (2009).

When students answer an in-class conceptual question individually using clickers, discuss it with their neighbors, and then revote on the same question, the % of correct answers typically increases. To test whether this was truly due to increased understanding, the researchers followed the exercise with an isomorphic question that students answered individually. Results indicate that peer discussion enhances understanding, even when none of the students in a discussion group originally knows the correct answer.

Assessment of the Effects of Student Response Systems on Student Learning and Attitudes over a Broad Range of Biology Courses
Ralph W. Preszler, Angus Dawe, Charles B. Shuster, and Michèle Shuster
CBE—Life Sciences Education, 6(1), pp. 29-41 (2007).
A study demonstrating that students have favorable opinions about the use of student response systems, and increased use of these systems increases student learning.

Designing effective questions for classroom response system teaching
Ian D. Beatty, William J. Gerace, William J. Leonard, and Robert J. Dufresne
American Journal of Physics, V. 74, N. 1, pp. 31-39 (2006).
This paper has an excellent discussion of different types of clicker questions and the cognitive processes they can tie into.

Student behavior, attitudes, and learning using in-class questions with "clickers" vs. a show of hands in a large introductory geology course
Andrea Bair, Jennifer Stempien, and David Budd
(presentation)
Students using electronic clickers, versus a "show of hands" are more likely to respond honestly.

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Group Work:

Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. Part 1: Group versus individual problem solving
Patricia Heller, Ronald Keith, and Scott Anderson
American Journal of Physics, Vol 60, Issue 7, pp. 627-636 (1992).
This study involving college students in a large introductory physics course finds that better problem solutions emerged through collaboration than were achieved by individuals working alone. Also, the instructional approach improved the problem solving performance of students at all ability levels.

Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. Part 2: Designing problems and structuring groups
Patricia Heller and Mark Hollabaugh
American Journal of Physics, Vol 60, Issue 7, pp. 637-644 (1992).
A companion to the previous paper, focusing on factors that affect the functioning of groups. They find that groups were more likely to use an effective problem-solving strategy when given context-rich problems than when given standard textbook problems. Well-functioning groups were found to result from specific structural and management procedures governing group members' interactions.

Group Process Research; Implications for Using Learning Groups
Carolyn Birmingham and Mary McCord
Ch. 4 of Team-based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups, edited by L. Michaelsen, A. Knight, and L. Dee Fink, Stylus Publishing, Sterling VA. (2002).
A good reference on group dynamics.

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Expertise Development:

The Expert Mind
Philip E. Ross
Scientific American, V. 295, Issue 2, pp. 64-71 (August 2006).
This article discusses research aimed at discovering how individuals become experts within their respective fields through the examination of chess masters and their mental processes. "The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born."

The influence of experience and deliberate practice on the development of superior expert performance
K. Anders Ericsson
in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, Ch. 38, (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
This book chapter is a nice review of the studies on the role of deliberate practice on the development of expertise. The basic conclusion is that many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of deliberate practice: intense, long-term practice aimed at continued improvement of performance. CWSEI staff and Science Teaching & Learning Fellows voted this reading as one of the "greatest hits."

The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance
K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer
Psychological Review, Vol. 100. No. 3, 363-406 (1993).
If you want more detail on studies of expertise development and deliberate practice, this paper is a good resource.

Inventing to Prepare for Future Learning: The Hidden Efficiency of Encouraging Original Student Production in Statistics Instruction
Daniel Schwartz and Taylor Martin
Cognition and Instruction, 22(2), 129–184 (2004).
This paper describes studies that demonstrate the value of invention activities for preparing students to learn from other resources (such as a lecture or written resource). CWSEI staff and Science Teaching & Learning Fellows voted this paper as one of the "greatest hits" and CU-SEI, CWSEI, and Dan Schwartz produced a short "Teaching Expert Thinking" instructor's guidance on designing and using invention activities.

Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal with Multiple Implications
John Bransford and Daniel Schwartz
Review of Research in Education, Vol. 24., pp. 61-100 (1999).
Transfer, the ability of a person to apply knowledge, skills, etc. learned in one context to a novel context, is a major goal of education. The authors review the research on Transfer and propose that Transfer be viewed from the perspective of preparation for future learning.

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Retention of Learning:

The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning
Jeffrey Karpicke and Henry Roediger
Science, Vol. 319. no. 5865, pp. 966-968 (2008).

This paper reports the finding that repeated studying after learning had no effect on delayed recall, but repeated testing produced a large positive effect. In addition, students' predictions of their performance were uncorrelated with actual performance. The results demonstrate the critical role of retrieval practice in consolidating learning and show that even university students seem unaware of this fact.

Test-Enhanced Learning; Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention
Henry Roediger and Jeffrey Karpicke
Psychological Science, Vol 17 Issue 3, pp. 249-255 (2006).

The authors studied the testing effect with educationally relevant materials and investigated whether testing facilitates learning only because tests offer an opportunity to restudy material. They found that on delayed tests, prior testing produced substantially greater retention than studying. CWSEI staff and Science Teaching & Learning Fellows voted this paper as one of the "greatest hits."

Memory and metamemory considerations in the training of human beings
Robert Bjork
In Metacognition: Knowing about knowing (pp.185-205), J. Metcalfe and A. Shimamura (Eds.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (1994).

This writing examines the contributors to non-optimal training, such as the trainer's & learner's misreading of progress toward long-term retention and differences between the conditions of training and conditions in the real-world environment. CWSEI staff and Science Teaching & Learning Fellows voted this paper as one of the "greatest hits."

Increased interestingness of extraneous details in a multimedia science presentation leads to decreased learning
Richard Mayer, Emily Griffith, Ilana Jurkowitz, and Daniel Rothman
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. Vol 14(4), pp. 329-339 (2008).

Two studies are described that find as the interestingness of extraneous details was increased, student understanding decreased (as measured by transfer). Results are consistent with a cognitive theory of multimedia learning, in which highly interesting details sap processing capacity away from deeper cognitive processing of the core material during learning.

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Assessment:

Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students' Learning
Graham Gibbs and Claire Simpson
Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Issue 1, (2004-5).

This article is about how to design assessment that supports worthwhile learning. CWSEI staff and Science Teaching & Learning Fellows voted this paper as one of the "greatest hits" and CWSEI produced a 2-pager instructor's guidance based on this paper.

Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses
Richard Hake
American Journal of Physics, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp. 64-74 (1998).

This paper is frequently cited as an excellent example of the importance of having a widely accepted assessment to compare the effectiveness of different forms of instruction and drive change in instruction. It is an analysis of Force Concept Inventory (FCI) data for 62 introductory physics courses enrolling a total of over 6000 students -- including diverse student populations in high schools, colleges, and universities.

A national study assessing the teaching and learning of introductory astronomy. Part I. The effect of interactive instruction
Edward Prather, Alexander Rudolph, Gina Brissenden, and Wayne Schlingman
American Journal of Physics, Volume 77, Issue 4, pp. 320-330 (2009).

Following the theme of Hake's study, above, but with an astronomy concept inventory: the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory (LSCI).

Evaluating an electricity and magnetism assessment tool: Brief electricity and magnetism assessment
Lin Ding, Ruth Chabay, Bruce Sherwood, and Robert Beichner
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, V. 2, 010105 (2006).

A good example of what is involved in developing a concept inventory (test of conceptual understanding).

The Genetics Concept Assessment: A New Concept Inventory for Gauging Student Understanding of Genetics
Michelle K. Smith, William B. Wood, and Jennifer K. Knight
CBE Life Sciences Education, Vol. 7(4), pp. 422-430 (2008).

Another good example of a carefully validated concept inventory.

Evaluating multiple-choice exams in large introductory physics courses
Michael Scott, Tim Stelzer, and Gary Gladding
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research V. 2, 020102 (2006).
This paper compares multiple choice exams created collectively by a group of involved faculty members with results of corresponding open ended exams. The study shows that the different forms of the exam provide the essentially the same result.

Grading student problem solutions: The challenge of sending a consistent message
Charles Henderson, Edit Yerushalmi, Vince Kuo, Patricia Heller, and Kenneth Heller
American Journal of Physics, V. 72, N. 2, pp. 164-169 (2004).

This describes a study testing how 30 instructors independently graded the same open ended exam solutions. The study shows two things, 1) how variable the marking is for open ended exam questions, and 2) how an instructors’ marking can be inconsistent with what they say they value in student learning.

On the Relative Value of Multiple-Choice, Constructed Response, and Examinee-Selected Items on Two Achievement Tests
Robert Lukhele, David Thissen, and Howard Wainer
Journal of Educational Measurement, V. 31, N. 3, pp. 234-250 (1994).
Very extensive and detailed analysis of advanced placement exams, with particular emphasis on chemistry, looking at comparison of multiple choice and open ended sections. They show that multiple choice questions are clearly superior for assessing student mastery, at a tiny fraction of the cost.

 

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Student Perceptions, Motivation, Behaviour:

New instrument for measuring student beliefs about physics and learning physics: The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey
W. K. Adams, K. K. Perkins, N. S. Podolefsky, M. Dubson, N. D. Finkelstein, and C. E. Wieman
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research V. 2, 010101 (2006).
This paper describes the development and validation of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) instrument designed to measure student beliefs about physics and about learning physics.

Reinventing college physics for biologists: Explicating an epistemological curriculum
Edward Redish and David Hammer
American Journal of Physics, Volume 77, Issue 7, pp. 629-642 (2009).
If you can get past the title, reading this paper will give you a good sense of what approaches (or, rather, combination of approaches) produce both strong gains on pre-post conceptual tests and strong pre-post gains on attitude/perception (epistemological) surveys. The latter is unprecedented in large introductory physics courses.

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Discipline-based Education Research:

How Students Learn Statistics Revisited: A Current Review of Research on Teaching and Learning Statistics
Joan Garfield and Dani Ben-Zvi
International Statistical Review, 75 (3), pp. 372-396 (2007).
Provides an overview of current thinking on statistical education research.

Teaching Mineralogy from the Core to the Crust
Barbara Dutrow
Journal of Geoscience Education, V. 52, N. 1, pp. 81-86 (2004).
This is about teaching mineralogy using the layers of the Earth as a framework (starting at the core where things are "simple," moving outwards, etc.). This is different approach; its usually taught by mineral families which does not give an intuitive framework for beginners.

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Other:

The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring
Benjamin Bloom
Educational Researcher, Vol. 13, No. 6., pp. 4-16 (1984).
Under the best learning conditions we can devise (individual tutoring), the average student is 2 sigma (standard deviations) above the average control student taught under conventional methods of instruction. This paper describes results of studies aimed at finding instructional methods that achieve such dramatic results for classrooms with many students.

The Wisdom of Practice: Lessons Learned from the Study of Highly Effective Tutors
Mark Lepper and Maria Woolverton
Improving academic achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education, Ch. 7, edited by J. Aronson, Academic Press, pp. 135-158, (2002).
A summary of studies on what factors make individual tutoring such a successful educational method. Many of the practices identified can be implemented in the classroom. CWSEI staff and Science Teaching & Learning Fellows voted this paper as one of the "greatest hits."

What is the Value of Course-Specific Learning Goals?
Beth Simon and Jared Taylor
Journal of College Science Teaching, v. 39 no. 2, pp. 52-57 (2009).
The (CWSEI) authors examine student and faculty opinions regarding the use of detailed learning goals in three courses.

Saving New Brain Cells
Tracey Shors
Scientific American; Vol. 300 Issue 3, pp. 46-54 (March 2009).
The article discusses how new brain cells are created in adults and the ways that these cells can be strengthened and kept alive. Use it or lose it!

How to Succeed in College: Learn How to Learn
Robert Bjork
American Psychological Society, 14 (3), (March 2001).
This paper provides guidance to students on how to learn most effectively, based on all the research that has been done on learning and retention of learning. The author is one of the leading experts in that area of research.

Another reason that physics students learn by rote
Andrew Elby
American Journal of Physics, V. 67, Issue S1, pp. S52-S57 (1999).
This paper describes the results of a survey indicating that students perceive "trying to understand physics well" to be a significantly different activity from "trying to do well in the course."

Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence
Harold Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Doug Rohrer, and Robert Bjork
Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol 9 Issue 3, pp. 105-119 (2009).

The authors, prominent Cognitive Psychologists, evaluate the evidence for instructional relevance of preferred "learning styles" and conclude that there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice. Quoting the paper: "The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing."

Learning Styles: A Critique
Michael Reynolds
Management Learning, 28, 2, pp. 115-133 (1997).

A critique of learning style theory from a critical education perspective.

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