Physics Education Research at CU-Boulder

Past Events and Group Meeting Archives


See Page 2 for other past events


November 16: Noah Finkelstein, Colloquium Physics Education Research: A resource for educational transformation at a critical time

4:00 pm Duane Physical Laboratories, Room G1B20
Coffee, tea and cookies will be served in Duane G1B31, beginning at 3:45 p.m.
After decades of research into student learning, assessments, and curriculum design, physics is considered one of the leading fields engaged in discipline-based educational research (DBER). Simultaneously, unprecedented national attention is now being paid to the outcomes of and needs for DBER. After framing the national scale scene of physics education, and how physics education research (PER) is positioned to contribute to the national dialog, I will review the growth of our own program at CU, and particularly my own research that examines several of the critical scales of focus in physics education. This work develops a new theoretical line of inquiry in PER through experimental work on student reasoning in physics at the individual, the course, and the departmental scales. I will present samples of these scales reviewing: novel work on student use of representation and analogy in physics learning, demonstration of the impacts of teaching interpretive themes on student learning of quantum mechanics in our modern physics courses, and conclude with how subtle faculty choices influence something as canonical as clicker use in our introductory physics sequence.

November 2-3: LA Workshop

National workshop held at CU. See for more information

November 1, 3:00 PM - DBER MCDB 4th floor Interaction Room - Scott Franklin - Diversity of Faculty Ideas and Practice in Active-Learning Classrooms

Associate Professor of Physics
Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology is one of the largest implementers of SCALE-UP, with >20 faculty teaching well over 1000 students every quarter in sections of 42 students each. Faculty run the gamut from lecturers, non-tenured faculty who teach up to three 6-hour sections per quarter, to research-active faculty who may teach one section per year. Familiarity with the results and philosophy of physics education is equally varied, and an outstanding question is how this diversity plays out in the classroom, despite the use of common materials. I will report on preliminary results of our study on the diversity of faculty practice and ideas. We use two observational protocols to characterize classroom practice. The Teaching Dimension Observation Protocol (TDOP) records, in real-time every 5 minutes, the varying strategies and methods used in the classroom. The Reform Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) is a qualitative, summative assessment of fidelity of the classroom to reform-teaching, active-engagement philosophies. By using both in the same observing period, we attempt to correlate student engagement with both classroom practice (TDOP) and fidelity to a student-centered teaching philosophy. Finally, we interview faculty using a protocol adapted from Henderson and Dancy's work on faculty from the New Faculty Workshop to tease out faculty ideas about teaching and learning and look for correlations or contradictions with their observed classroom practice.

October 31, 12:30 PM - Brown Bag MCDB A120- Michael Wittman - Highly Variable Data from Different Question Types on Traditional PER Assessments

Associate Professor of Physics
University of Maine

Classic questions in physics education research have often been asked of thousands of students, with robust and highly repeatable results. A typical question might ask whether some quantity (say, the brightness of a bulb) increases, decreases, or stays the same. What happens when we change the question slightly, for example, asking only "does it increase?" or telling students that, "the quantity increases" and asking them to explain? Preliminary data on variable question types suggests that these seemingly small changes lead to vastly different student responses. Such responses can lead teachers to inaccurate inferences about student understanding. I will present results from several such questions. Topics will include a typical electric circuits problem and the classic coin toss problem, as well as others as time permits. Open discussion is desired - interruptions are encouraged!

October 28, 1:00 PM - What is "Interactive Engagement?" Ron Thornton, Tufts University

Director and Professor, Center for Science and Math Teaching, Departments of Physics and of Education,
Tufts University,

Physics education research and research in other science fields has shown that learning environments that engage students and allow them to take an active part in their learning can lead to large conceptual gains compared to traditional instruction. A great deal of work has been done in physics instruction but the methods are applicable to all sciences. The types of activities that comprise “active learning” (sometimes called active engagement) for both teacher and students and the elements common to many (but not all) active-learning curricula have been less discussed. Ron Thornton, an author of the FMCE, has been involved physics education research and design of highly interactive pedagogical tools and curricula for over 30 years. He and David Meltzer are writing a resource letter for the American Journal of Physics that categorizes various elements of active-learning curricula in terms of published Physics Education Research. This presentation will give an overview of common active learning methods (some used at CU) and learning outcomes.

October 14: Professor Diane Bruce of the Catholic University of America will give a talk at CU:
"Using Research to Challenge Myths of Teaching and Learning"

Professor Bruce will give a talk on Friday, October 14, 2011 at 3:00 PM in Ekeley S274. For more information about Professor Bruce's research, visit her website.

There are many “truths” about teaching and learning that we accept such as how long students retain knowledge after a test and how long they pay attention in lecture. Many of these untested truths or myths are artifacts of our beliefs about teaching and learning in general. Planning and executing research to challenge such myths will help expand our understanding of how teaching and actually do interact. This presentation will focus both on the results of two of our recent investigations regarding how long students in different types of general chemistry courses retain knowledge after a test and how long students in different types of general chemistry courses pay attention in lecture. In addition to presenting the research, a discussion of the experimental methods used and tools employed in the research will be discussed. The purpose of the presentation will be both to present research that can address questions about effective teaching and insight into how one plans an investigation of a real classroom question.

October 10: STEM Education Symposium 3-7 pm

The 3rd Annual Symposium on STEM Education will be held on October 10 from 3-7pm in the Club Level of Folsom Stadium. Go to the iSTEM Symposium website for more information.

October 6: Matthew Hora & Joseph Ferrare to present at PER group meeting - A new approach to assessing methods of STEM teaching: An introduction to the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP)

As part of a research project examining the cognitive, cultural and organizational factors shaping STEM teaching practices, Hora and Ferrare developed a new classroom observation instrument – the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP). The instrument was created in response to the tendency of observation protocols in higher education to be unstructured, overly reliant on open-ended observations, limited to measures of teaching methods observed, and based on a priori assumptions of instructional quality. The TDOP is based on systems-of-practice theory from distributed cognition and captures the following features of faculty teaching: teaching methods used, cognitive demands asked of students, instructional artifacts (e.g., IT) used, and the actual content of the class. The categories are comprised of several different codes, and data are collected at five-minute intervals throughout the class period, resulting in a rich data set. Data are analyzed to identify the proportion of times particular codes are observed (e.g., lecture was observed in 83% of the five-minute intervals among 57 faculty observed in the Spring of 2010), and how particular pairs or even triads of codes are observed in the same five-minute interval using social network analysis techniques. The TDOP is designed to produce robust descriptions of teaching practice that can be used for self- or departmental-assessments of existing teaching practices, program evaluation, and other similar applications. In this talk, Hora and Ferrare will introduce the conceptual underpinnings of the TDOP and conduct a brief demonstration on its administration and analytic procedures. In addition, findings from the first wave of the CCHER project based on CU-Boulder data will be presented (

October 3: AAPT winter meeting - Abstracts due

Go to to submit

September 16: APS 4 corners meeting - abstracts due

See for more information

September 15: Steve Reynolds (ASU) gives workshop during brown bag

This brown bag workshop, "Undergraduate Teaching in Geological Sciences", will take place in Benson room 380. The abstract is below:

Over the past two decades, Professor Reynolds and his colleagues at Arizona State University have been conducting educational and cognitive research about how to increase student learning in college science courses, especially those with large numbers of students. As part of these activities, he has conducted informative and entertaining teaching workshops to university faculty across the country, including several years as an NAGT distinguished speaker. He has recently helped complete a national recognized redesign of introductory classes to make more efficient use of instructor time and has helped develop new, innovative, and highly successful online versions of introductory lecture and lab courses. A blending of the research and redesign efforts has provided a solution, now implemented in large classes for several years, to the breadth versus depth versus inquiry dilemma that faces all instructors. In this short workshop-style session, Professor Reynolds will highlight this research and the redesign activities, providing specific, easily employed strategies that can be shown to increase student learning and to liberate the instructor from having to cover every bit of important content. Participants will experience these strategies, learn the rationale behind each, and carry away specific teaching tips to try in their own classrooms.

September 14: Steve Reynolds from ASU gives Geology Colloquium

The colloquium will take place on Wednesday, September 14 in Benson room 180 at 4pm.

August 24: Physics Colloquium (first of the year)

"First Galaxies, First Stars, and the Reionization Epochs of H and He"

Presenter: Michael Shull, Astrophysical and Planetary Science, University of Colorado Boulder
Host: Paul Beale
Abstract: The universe is thought to have originated in a hot fireball (Big Bang) whose expansion in the presence of dark matter and baryons led to cooling, formation of large-scale structure, the "Dark Ages", and eventually to the first stars and galaxies. I will describe > theoretical studies of the expectations for the earliest light in the universe, and the impact of these first galaxies on the high-redshift intergalactic medium. I will then discuss the remarkable new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope of high-redshift galaxies > and quasars that probe the predicted epochs of reionization of hydrogen (at a redshift factor z = 7) and singly-ionized helium (at redshift z = 3). We are now learning that the universe was teeming with star-formation activity during its first 500 Myr of existence.

April 1: Biology Education Talk by Phil Gibson

"Active Learning, Inquiry, & Approaches to Case Study Teaching in Biology"

Phil is from the University of Oklahoma where he conducts research on science pedagogy. His attendance of numerous workshops has allowed him to incorporate case-based teaching approaches in his own teaching.

March 24: Webster, Associate Professor of Physics at Columbus State University, Visits

"SOAP and GEARS: Education research and curriculum development through acronyms!"

In the prior 4 years of my career at Columbus State University, I have been involved with two 'acronymed' projects relating to education. My current project is to develop an online astronomy curriculum for high school students. This technology focused and data-driven curriculum is entitled Georgians Experience Astronomy Research in Schools. I will describe the educational philosophy and overall dissemination strategy for this project. The Science Outcomes Assessment Project was undertaken at the request of the Vice President of Academic Affairs to identify factors that are important for student retention in science classes. Cognitive, external, affective, emotional and demographic factors that were expected to affect performance in introductory science classes were examined to identify areas in which changes might be made to reduce the number of unproductive grades. A sample of 57 introductory biology, chemistry, and geology students completed multiple inventories during their semester of enrollment allowing determination of factors that strongly correlated to success. I will describe our project's findings and our recommendations to the administration.

March 14: Valarie Ackerson Leads Discussion

"The Importance of Teaching and Learning Nature of Science in the Early Childhood Years: A Research Synthesis across Informal, Urban, and Suburban Teaching Contexts"

Valarie Akerson, Professor of Science Education at Indiana University will visit with the PER group on Monday, March 14, 2011 to discuss a new research matter concerning elementary students and science courses. Valarie is also a potential colleague to PER!

February 10: Paula Heron visits and lead a PER meeting

"What can we learn about teaching from studying students' spontaneous reasoning?"

Over the past few decades, systematic research has shown that many physics students express essentially the same (incorrect) ideas both before and after instruction. It is frequently assumed that these ideas can be identified by research and then addressed through “interactive” teaching approaches such as hands-on activities and small-group collaborative work. In many classrooms, incorrect ideas are elicited, their inadequacy is exposed, and students are guided in reconciling their prior knowledge with the formal concepts of the discipline. Variations of this strategy have proven fruitful in science instruction at all levels from elementary through graduate school. However, this summary greatly over-simplifies the use of students’ spontaneous reasoning as the basis for effective instructional strategies. I will examine this process with examples from university physics courses but analogies can be made to other disciplines.

February 3: Trevor Smith hosts a PER meeting

Trevor Smith of the University of Maine visited

His discussion will focus on Developing Tutorials for Statistical Thermodynamics. A discussion on formatting tutorials and recitation materials for Statistical Thermodynamics classes.

January 27: Janet Coffey hosts a talk

Janet Coffey of the University of Maryland

Her focus topic discusses "what happens when Biologists, Physicists, and Educators talk".


october 13: Learning assistant workshop at cu

Training of a new group of learning assistants will allow them to assist in classes like physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and many more.

September 2: University of Colorado at Boulder will host Bruce McMullen

Bruce McMullen of the University of New England, Australia will visit for a meeting and workshop


STEM Education in the United States

The former President of the National Academy of Science, and Editor in Chief of Science Magazine will discuss the prevalence of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in schools and new techniques in teaching them.

october 13: Learning assistant workshop at cu

Training of a new group of learning assistants will allow them to assist in classes like physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and many more.

September 2: University of Colorado at Boulder will host Bruce McMullen

Bruce McMullen of the University of New England, Australia will visit for a meeting and workshop


STEM Education in the United States

The former President of the National Academy of Science, and Editor in Chief of Science Magazine will discuss the prevalence of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in schools and new techniques in teaching them.


November 17: Special DBER: Dr. Michael Marder, Professor of Physics& UTeach Director, Univ. of Texas at Austin

"Student Flow through STEM Education in Texas"

Dr. Marder will discuss the use of methods borrowed from statistical mechanics to analyze student test scores on the high-stakes Texas mathematics tests. These methods are used to investigate the assertion, influencing Federal funding policies, that once one knows students' test scores in one year, all other information about them can and should be discarded when trying to predict how much they will learn the next. These studies reveal how students flow through the space of score and time, that both convective and diffusive effects are at work, and that poverty has a very significant effect on the flow pattern. Other topics include students disappearance from schools, students being retained in grades, and the relative performance of regular and charter schools. pdf icon

August 31: Integrating STEM Education Inaugural Symposium

Symposium for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education

Come learn more about this exciting new initiative and how it can support your STEM education efforts. Featuring an address by the Provost, Deans from three schools, the introduction of ISTEM faculty and graduate fellows, and an invited poster session. Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Monday August 31, 9am-noon, UMC Glenn Miller Ballroom.

May 17-20: APLU Science and Math Teacher Imperative Inaugural Meeting

Over 100 Public Institutions Committed to increasing the number of K12 Math and Science Teachers

The APLU's Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) is the commitment of over 100 public universities nation-wide to increasing the pipeline of well-trained science and math teachers. The SMTI aims to address the national crises in science and math education. CU Boulder was chosen to host the inaugural meeting of this new initiative because of its role as a national leader in teacher recruitment and preparation and STEM education.

May 19: NOON Group Meeting: Robert Lamboune, Open University, piCETL and IOP, UK

Promoting excellence in physics teaching and learning

In 2005 the UK government launched its largest ever university teaching and learning program. The CETL initiative established 74 Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning widely distributed in terms of geography, subject focus and teaching methodology. Each CETL was funded for five years and was intended to build on established success, generating new teaching resources, promoting educational scholarship and raising the profile of teaching in a strongly research-dominated culture. In this talk I will describe some of the work that has been undertaken by the Physics Innovations CETL (piCETL), the only CETL specifically devoted to physics and astronomy. In particular, I will concentrate on developments in e-learning, including the use of tablet pcs and Reusable Learning Objects from the ELPSS project (E-Learning in Physical Science through Sport), Problem Based Learning in physics and laboratory-based skills teaching with Interactive Screen Experiments.

May 5: 11:30 Group Meeting: Chandralekha Singh, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh

Helping students learn to reflect on problem solving

Reflection is an integral component of effective problem solving. While experts in a particular field reflect and exploit problem solving as an opportunity for organizing and extending their knowledge, students often need to be explicitly taught how to use problem solving as an opportunity for learning. We have been investigating the extent to which both introductory and advanced physics students learn from their mistakes. Introductory physics students were explicitly asked to diagnose their mistakes in quizzes. Different levels of scaffolding support were provided in different recitation classes. Advanced students in quantum mechanics were expected to diagnose their mistakes by comparing their answers with the correct solution provided. We will discuss how introductory and advanced physics students perform on subsequent problem solving tasks which require them to transfer the knowledge acquired from their previous self-diagnosis tasks. Findings from individual interviews with a subset of students will also be presented.

May 2-5 APS April Meeting in Denver

come to the annual meeting. All education sessions, free and open to the public

See sessions:Saturday: B13, Monday R13, T13

Apr 17-18 Colorado / Wyoming Sectional Meeting of the AAPT

Colorado School of Mines

Physics of NASCAR, Demos and more

Call for Papers - Due April 10 and more information

April 8: Jose Mestre, University of Illinois, Dept of Physics and Dept of Educational Psychology

From Expert-Novice Reasoning to Classroom Practice: Pure and Applied Studies of Physics Cognition

I will discuss two studies in physics cognition at the opposite ends of the pure-applied spectrum. One study explores a phenomenon known as “change-blindness” in visual cognition, which focuses on whether or not unsuspecting participants notice changes made in real-time to diagrams or visual scenes, and the factors contributing to noticing. In our experiment, physics experts and novices viewed a physics diagram on a screen and were asked to explain the physics underlying the situation; however, the diagram was changed during explanation while participants were slightly distracted to ascertain whether or not they noticed the change in the diagram. I will discuss the types of changes that are noticed (and not noticed) by experts and novices, as well as provide the background for why a study such as this sheds like on the cognitive functioning of physics experts and novices. The second, more applied study explores the efficacy of three different methods for delivering physics content (electricity) as preparation for attending interactive lectures that focus on concept refinement as opposed to dispensing information: 1) web-based multimedia learning modules, 2) scripts of those modules, and 3) standard textbooks. We found significant differences in amount of learning and retention among these three types of delivery systems. I will discuss the design of the materials, the underlying cognitive theory, the experiment, and findings.

Mar 19 : 12:30P Ayush gupta, University of Maryland, PHysics Education Research Group

The Dynamics of Constructing Meaning in Physics

Recent research in cognitive linguistics suggests that meaning is not a static property of words but is determined dynamically by the network of knowledge that a word participates in. I will present data from clinical interviews to illustrate that the meaning students attach to physics ideas is also dynamically constructed. I will argue that extension of ideas from cognitive linguistics can help us understand local coherences and patterns of transition in the ontology underlying students' reasoning as well as diagnose difficulties students have in attaching meaning to equations in physics.

Mar 13-18: PTEC Annual Meeting Pittsburgh

Feb 13-16: AAPT National Winter Meeting, Chicago

Feb 12-15: CU Delegation to Attend NSBP/NSHP Annual Meetings, Nashville

Feb 5 : 12:30P Brian Frank, University of Maryland, PHysics Education Research Group

Building Coherence from Variable Thought and Action

Complex knowledge systems approaches (diSessa, 1993; Strike and Posner, 1992) have described students' intuitive thinking as generated from a variety of weakly organized and context-dependent elements of cognition. While this variability may contribute to novice students' fragmented understandings of concepts, it also provides opportunities for students to develop more globally coherent understandings from the coordination of more local and variable aspects of their thinking and behavior. Through an analysis of case studies involving university students' reasoning about motion in tutorial, I explore a few mechanisms by which students build toward coherence out of variable thoughts and action. In particular, I describe how instances of coordination are influenced by (1) the local arrangement of objects in space and (2) persisting patterns of talk in time. In the last part of this talk, I'd like use these examples in order to discuss possible connections among distributed accounts of coherent behavior (Hutchins, 1995) and accounts of coherence that are largely located within the individual's mind (Minsky, 1986 ; diSessa and Sherin, 1998).

Jan 22 : 12:30P (special group meeting): Rachel Scherr, UMD Physics and UW LIFE CEnter

Spontaneous everyday science talk in the classroom

Students’ experience of science is potentially more meaningful and authentic when they relate the science they learn in school to phenomena in their everyday lives. We investigate when and how students in a university physics course bring specific personal experiences of science into the classroom. Detailed examination of video episodes suggests that skepticism, vernacular language, and a generally “off-record” interaction pattern may be integrally related to students’ contributing their personal experiences of science in collaborative workgroups. This interaction pattern appears to afford high-quality science talk. It also appears to resist direct instructional support.

Jan 21-22: Site visit National Task Force on Teacher Preparation in Physics



NOvember 12 : 4 p, Steven Pollock, University of Colorado

Understanding Educational Reforms: Impacts of Physics Education Research at CU

NOvember 6: 12:30p, Dan Schwartz, Stanford University

Transfer of Learning

November 3: 4p, Melanie Cooper, Clemson University

Assessment and Improvement of Problem Solving

October 16: 12:30p Geoff Cohen

Stereotype Threat and studies on inclusion in science

October 2: 11:30a Jo Handelsman

NRC Report on Women in Science

July 31: 1:30p, James Gee

What video games can tell us about learning

April 8: 1PM: PhD thesis Defense: Noah S. Podolefsky

Analogical Scaffolding: Making Meaning in Physics through Representation and Analogy

In this work will review the literature on analogy, introduce a new model of analogy, and describe a series of experiments that test and confirm the utility of this model to describe and predict student learning in physics with analogy. In pilot studies, we found that representations (e.g., diagrams) can play a key role in students’ use of analogy. A new model of analogy, Analogical Scaffolding, was developed to explain these empirical results. This model will be described in detail, then applied to describe and predict the outcomes of further experiments conducted by the author. These large-scale (N>100) studies will demonstrate that: (1) students taught with analogies, according to the Analogical Scaffolding model, outperform students taught without analogies on pre-post assessments focused on electromagnetic waves; (2) the representational forms used to teach with analogy can play a significant role in student learning, with students in one treatment group outperforming students in other treatment groups by factors of two or three.  It will be demonstrated that Analogical Scaffolding can be used to predict this result, as well as finer-grained results such as the types of distracters students choose in different treatment groups. Finally, Analogical Scaffolding will be used to analyze student reasoning in an interview.


April 7: 10am: Undergraduate honors thesis: darRen Tarshis

Measuring What’s Hidden How College Physics Courses Implicitly Influence Student Beliefs

Educators devote most of their attention to students learning the subject matter of a course. What is less recognized by educators, is that beyond learning the content, students’ attitudes, beliefs, and values change too—sometimes in unexpected and unintended ways. When something is not explicitly taught, but students learn it anyway, it is part of the “hidden curriculum.” Because the explicit curriculum tends to focus on content, it’s the hidden curriculum that influences students’ beliefs about the nature of science, and the nature of learning science. This thesis presents a study of the hidden curricula in three different introductory physics courses. All three are second semester Electricity and Magnetism courses at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This research focuses on four dimensions of the hidden curriculum: Process vs. Product, Source of Knowledge, Real World vs. Abstract, and Gender Bias vs. Gender Neutral. In order to measure these four dimensions of the hidden curricula of three courses, rubrics have been developed, and course environments have been observed and measured using these rubrics. Additionally, the impact that varying hidden curricula have on students is addressed by surveying student beliefs. Results indicate that hidden curricula send mixed messages to students, certain course elements have greater influence on students’ beliefs than others (like lecture versus homework), and students with less strongly held beliefs are more influenced by a hidden curriculum.


Mar 13: Dancy (UNCC) and Henderson: Instructional Change

Physics Education Research Group
Thursday, March 13, 12:30 pm - GAMOW 11th Floor

Barriers to reform

Most dissemination efforts focus on changing the behavior of individual instructors with little success.  Our research indicates a significant explanation for this failure is that instructors do not exist in a vacuum, they are part of a larger environment and that environment is often unsupportive or even hostile toward research-based reforms.  In this discussion we will consider the underlying nature of these systemic barriers by considering the conflicting goals of various stakeholders and the effect of structuralism.

Discipline-based Education Research Collaborative
Thursday, March 13, 2:00 pm - ATLAS 200

Models of educational change: Where are we now and where do we need to go?

Reform-minded science education researchers have expended significant effort developing and testing high quality curricular materials and techniques with the expectation that other science instructors will recognize the superiority of these materials and adopt them. The expectation is that the number of instructors using these materials will naturally expand, eventually leading to a critical mass of instructors teaching in a fundamentally new way. Unfortunately, current and historical evidence does not indicate promise for this approach to reform. This interactive talk will focus on the importance of developing and testing models of educational change.  Based on an analysis of the educational change literature from three discrete research communities, two tools will be introduced to help educational researchers think about the implicit and explicit assumptions behind approaches to change.  


Mar 12: Valerie Otero: Physics Department Colloquium

A Crisis in Physics Education: When Local Solutions Hit the National Scene

The National Academy of Science listed four priority recommendations for ensuring American competitiveness in the 21st century. The first priority was to “Increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education” [1]. Studies point to content knowledge as one of the main factors that is positively correlated with teacher quality, yet those directly responsible for undergraduate physics content are rarely directly involved in elementary or secondary school-level teacher preparation. The Learning Assistant (LA) Model at the University of Colorado at Boulder is based on the premise that teacher preparation begins in the college of arts and sciences, where students begin their content education. The overarching goals of the LA program will be discussed with a focus on the positive impact that the Colorado Learning Assistant model has had on undergraduate physics students’ content knowledge, on physics teacher production rates, and on the practices of other physics departments who are currently replicating our LA model. Our studies demonstrate the important role that physics research faculty play in elementary and secondary physics education.

1. Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century, Rising Above the Gathering Storm (National Academy Press, Washington DC, 2006).



Dec 18: Wendy Adam Thesis Defense

Problems Solving, Student Attitudes and Computer Simulations

Nov 8-10: NSTA Western Area Conference

join as we run at least 3 workshops and have a PhET booth.

Oct 24-25: the national Colorado Learning Assistant Workshop (CLAW)

Please plan on joining as APS / PTEC is sponsoring visitors from around the country to join us for two days to learn about LAs

Oct 15: SPECIAL GROUP MEETING: Dr. Jeanne Kriek, UNISA South Africa- Distance Learning and science education

Learn what an online university that serves 250,000 students in Africa does for physics education and the preparation of teachers

Oct 3, 2007: Scott P. Simkins, Director, Academy for Teaching and Learning, North Carolina A&T: Group Meeting

Adapting Pedagogies and Educational Research Methods Across Disciplines – What is the Potential, What are the Limitations?
Building the Teaching Commons: What can Economists Learn From Physics Education Research?

 In this session I will provide insights from an NSF-supported project a colleague (Mark Maier, Glendale Comm. Coll.) and I are leading that explores the adaptability of pedagogical and assessment innovations initially developed in STEM disciplines for use in non-STEM disciplines, in particular, economics (our field of expertise). In our project we focus on the following questions: What student learning challenges/problems are common across disciplines? How can the innovations developed there be adapted for use in non-STEM fields? What are the challenges and barriers to such cross-disciplinary adaptation? I hope to engage participants in a discussion about opportunities for cross-disciplinary adaptation of both effective teaching and assessment practices and educational research practices.

Sept 29: Noah Finkelstein, Boulder Area Physics Teachers: 5:30p Boulder High

PER at CU Boulder and what might be relevant for high school teaching

Stephanie Chasteen, from the Exploratorium: July 2: Gamow Tower 11th floor: 2 PM

SPECIAL Seminar: Attack of the Podpeople!

What's a podcast?  It's more than just a buzzword, it can be a very useful tool both for teaching and for your own professional development.  In this crash course on podcasting we'll find out what a podcast is, listen to a few, brainstorm creative ways to use them in the classroom, and make a quick 'n dirty podcast of our own for the world to hear.   We'll also do some hands-on activities on the science of sound. 

Beth Lindsey University of Washington: Gamow Tower 11th floor: 1PM

SPECIAL GROUP MEEEING :An Investigation into Student Understanding of Work and Energy

The first law of thermodynamics states that doing work on an otherwise isolated system will cause its energy to change. In order to apply this law correctly, students need to be able to calculate the work done on a deformable system, and then relate the work to the change in energy of the system. Student performance in introductory mechanics suggests that traditional instruction is insufficient to develop a functional understanding of this principle. Several common difficulties identified by research have implications for instruction on energy conservation in introductory mechanics and subsequent courses, as well as K-12 education. A set of research-based instructional materials1 is under development by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington that are designed to address these difficulties.

May 17: Bob Moses speaking at School of Education

April 11: Redish gives Physics Department Colloquium Problem Solving and the Use of Math in Physics Courses

Mar 16: Finkelstein gives ICS Colloquium at CU: Understanding Student Learning in Physics: the role of representation and analogy.

Physics Wizard Show Mar 13: Light and Color 5pm Duane G1B20

The Physics on Light and Color by Noah Finkelstein for students in Baker / Kittridge. G1b30 Duane Physics, 5p. Open to the public.

PTEC National Meeting, Boulder, CO - Mar 2-4

A national conference on physics teacher preparation for K12. Held at the Millennium Hotel in Boulder. Sponsored by APS, AIP, AAPT, and the PER group at CU.

Eugenia Etikina, Rutgers University- Mar 1

A discussion of current work on the undergraduate lab and scientific habits of mind. Links to Etkina and her work on assessment of scientific abilities

Carlos Vignolo, Industrial Engineering DepartmenT, School of Engineering Universidad de Chile - Feb 8

GROUP MEEEING DISCUSSION: Education Reform in Higher Education in Chile

Dr. Vignolo has a long history as a professor in the Industrial Engineering department at the Universidad de Chile. Throughout the last 15 years or so, Carlos has been involved (in large and small ways) in the process of introducing innovation to various sectors in Chile. Most recently (the last 10 years or so), he has been particularly interested in fostering innovations in the teaching and learning of engineering at his university and beyond. He has written several articles on the subject, and is widely regarded throughout Chile as one of the leading voices in higher education reform. He is interested in sharing his ideas and programs of research and teaching with other like-minded reformers around the world who have similarly taken to the task of changing the learning experiences for university students. He will be here from the 7th through the 21st.

Joe Redish - ICS Colloquium - Feb 2


Department holiday party, Dec. 15th, 4PM.

Mackenzie Stetzer, University of Washington Physics Education Group, Nov 15-17

BROWNBAG SEMINAR: Physics G1B31 Nov 15 Noon - 1PM
The need for special courses in physics for K-12 teachers*

Results from several simultaneous investigations of student understanding, focusing on different populations, will be used to illustrate the need for special courses in physics for pre service and inservice K-12 teachers.  Our findings suggest that significant changes to undergraduate courses are necessary to help teachers develop the deep conceptual understanding required to teach pre college students.  Incorporating research-based materials into introductory courses is not sufficient.  Special laboratory-based, inquiry-oriented courses in physics are needed both to help teachers develop a robust understanding of basic physics and to help prepare teachers for teaching physics as a process of inquiry.  *This work has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation

GROUP MEETING:Physics 11th Floor Reading Room Nov 16 Noon - 1:30PM
New insights into student understanding of electric circuits*

Insights into student understanding of electric circuits continue to emerge from an ongoing investigation by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington.  This work is part of a larger effort to develop and refine research-based instructional materials on electric circuits for several different student populations.  The results have strong implications for instruction in a variety of contexts, including introductory physics courses and special physics courses for pre service and inservice K-12 teachers. *This work has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

Julie Libarkin,Michigan State "A tale of three theories: development of the Geoscience Concept Inventory", Nov 15, at 4pm Geoscience Colloquium

Ted Hodapp, American Physical Society, Nov 13-14

Edward Price, Cal State San Marcos, Department of Physics, Nov 9-10

Group Meeting - 11th Floor Physics Tower, Noon Thurs Nov 9
Are physicists born or made? Examining the epistemological development of physics majors

Are physicists born or made? Examining the epistemological development of physics majors
Most studies of epistemological beliefs focus on novice-expert comparisons. In contrast, we have examined the epistemological sophistication (as measured by CLASS) of physics majors in various stages of degree progress at the University of California at San Diego. We find that beginning physics majors are significantly more sophisticated than non-majors in introductory physics courses and that this high level of sophistication is consistent throughout undergraduate study. I will describe results of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies and implications for stages in the development of physics students' epistemological stances.

BrownBag Seminar - G1B31 Physics, 2p, Thurs Nov 9
Ubiquitous Presenter: Spontaneity and Interactivity in a Digital Lecturing Environment

Ubiquitous Presenter allows instructors to annotate prepared slides and students to participate electronically during in-class activities, while automatically archiving both sets of materials on the web. Using a Tablet PC, an instructor can add digital ink to a prepared slide, combining the spontaneity and natural pacing of writing on the board with the archival and rich multimedia features of computer-based presentation. Furthermore, students with internet-enabled devices (laptops, Tablets, phones, etc.) can make submissions during class, which the instructor can show to the whole class and annotate. These features enable interaction through typed text, drawn or written “ink”, and multiple-choice selection (polling), thereby supporting and enriching many interactive engagement techniques. I will demonstrate the system (bring your laptop!), analyze examples of instructor and student produced materials, discuss the classroom impact of using the system, and present data on how students use and evaluate the system.

ATLAS SEMINAR: ALTS 200, 2:30p Friday Nov 10
Making Digital Lectures Spontaneous and Interactive: Getting Started with Ubiquitous Presenter

Learn how to use Ubiquitous Presenter to annotate prepared slides and allow students to make contributions during in-class activities, while automatically archiving both sets of materials on the web. Using a Tablet PC, an instructor can add digital ink to a prepared slide, combining the spontaneity and natural pacing of writing on the board with the archival and rich multimedia features of computer-based presentation. Furthermore, students with internet-enabled devices (laptops, Tablets, phones, etc.) can make submissions during class, which the instructor can show to the whole class and annotate. These features enable interaction through typed text, drawn or written “ink”, and multiple-choice selection (polling), thereby supporting and enriching many interactive engagement techniques.  Furthermore, students with laptops can annotate and submit slides during class, which the instructor can show to the whole class and further annotate. This workshop will describe the system's pedagogical uses, provide hands-on experience, and prepare participants to use the system themselves - bring your tablet!

Michael Cole, Lab of Comparative Human Cognition, UCSD & University Professor, University of California. Oct 19, NOon

He has been one of the leaders of developing the field of sociocultural historical activty-theory in psychology and particularly interested in informal and out-of-school education. Mike is also extremely interested and involved in questions of sustainable transformation of educational systems. Other work includes extensive use and study of technology in education. more on Mike:

Vince Coletta, LMU Physics September 28; Noon

Is Interactivity Enough? Physics Education Research has shown that introductory physics courses that use interactive engagement (IE) methods are consistently more effective than those that use traditional methods. However, research also shows that many students with weak reasoning skills are not able to understand basic concepts even in IE classes. I will describe the strong correlation that exists between measures of reasoning skills and measures of learning in introductory mechanics classes. I will then describe some of the worldwide interventions that have been successful in improving reasoning skills in pre-high school students. Finally, I will describe how at LMU we are attempting to adapt and build on those successful interventions, to provide help for students in introductory physics classes.

Grad Orientation Schedule: Aug 23-24

Join the Lead TAs and Steve Pollock for the graduate training sessions Wed- Friday G131

Special Visitor: Goran Grimvall, Royal institute of technology, sweden, Aug 3, noon

11th floor physics tower, Goran will be speaking about 25 years of public outreach and a newer project on the development of meta-skills in science, engineering and science. What are the skills that span each of these domains?


National meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in Syracuse, followed by the Physics Education Research Conference.


See link for details.


July 1: Contributed poster deadline.

July 7: PERC paper deadline.

Visiting Speaker: Saalie Allie June 27: Noon 11th Floor Physics Tower

Dr. Allie from University of Capetown, S.A. will be speaking about undergraduate labs, roles, and learning in these environment

STEM WOrkshop JunE 14-16

STEM Colorado and Colorado PhysTEC are sponsoring a summer workshop for teachers.




Group Meeting / Reading Group- 11th Floor Physics Tower

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010


June 6: Noah Podolefsky will be speaking about his research applying Fauconier and Turner's concepts of blending to learning physics via analogy.

June 13: Reading Group, back to How We Think (Fauconier and Turner)

June 20: Reading Group Faucuonier and Turner (Chap 5 & 6)

June 27: Saalie Allie and Lab reforms

July 4: Declaration of Independence

July 11: Grady on Conceptual Blending; Dancy on animated FCI

Jul 18: Preparation for AAPT. Please be prepared to share your own work and suggested talks from AAPT and from PERC .

Aug 1: Group Meeting: AAPT Recap (bring your favorite 2 items from AAPT / PERC meeting)

Aug 8: Group meeting:Turhan Carroll speaking about implementation of Tutorials in summer session.

Aug 31: Group meeting resume -- NOTE NEW DAY (THURSDAY). Time tentatively 12p - 1:30p - organization and debrief of ICS conference

Sept 6: Noah Podolefsky - Analogy, Blending and Representation: current results and future studies

Sept 13: Patrick Kohl: Representation, Context and Learning Physics: current results; visitor, Rick Duschl of Rutgers GSE

Sept 20: Sam McKagan: Photoelectric effect and new tools for teaching QM

Sept 27: Vince Colletta: LMU

Oct 5: Jack Barbera CU Boulder - Chemistry Education Research

Oct 5: visitor Barbara Michaelides (U of L at Monroe) recruitment office.

Oct 12: reading group: Wittman in Physical Review

Oct 19: visitor: Michael Cole

Oct 26: Linda Kock, CU JILA- Chemistry Education Research

Nov 2: no formal Group meeting - lunch discussion of state standards

Nov 9: Ed Price: Group meeting: CLASS Research are Physicist Born or Made

Nov 16: Mackenzie Stetzer, Group Meeting

Nov 30: Danielle Harlow, CU School of Ed, PER Group.

Dec 6: Sam McKagan, CU Physics, PER Group


Jan 18: Noah Podolefsky: Representation & Analogy

Jan 25: Joe Redish: Theory in PER: Why? What? How?

Feb 1: Pat Kohl: Representation & student reasoning

Feb 8:Carlos Vignolo: Higher Ed Reform in Chile

Feb 15: Chandra Turpen: Faculty beliefs and practices in physics teaching

Feb 22: Linda Koch: Chemistry Education Research

Mar 1: Eugenia Etkina, Rutgers University: ISLE & assessment of scientific abilities

Mar 8: Catherine Crouch (Swarthmore) visiting CU PER@C: discussion On Reducing the Gender Gap in Introductory Physics courses

Mar 15: Wendy Adams: Problem Solving in Physics

Mar 22: Chris Keller: the i>Clicker Story at CU

April 5: Kathy Perkins: Students opinions of clickers in upper division physics

April 12: Otero, Pollock, Finkelstein, the LA Story

April 19: Laurie Langdon: Chemistry Concept Challenges--- Chemistry Education Research

April 19: special visitor: Dr. Marcelo Knobel:IFI, Brazil

April 26: visitor Gerd Kortemeyer, Michigan State University, of Lon-CAPA fame and recent work in attitudes, behavior and discussion Phys Rev

May 17: Valerie Otero: how students develop an understanding of models in science

May 31: Chris Keller will be reporting on the 2nd portion of the Clicker study

June 7: reading group: dynamics and transfer: K-state chapter

June 7: DBER: John Stocke: Addressing Measurement / Systematic Errors with the Eratosthenes Experiment

June 7: reading group: dynamics and transfer: diSessa chapter

June 14: reading group: dynamics and transfer: TV chapter 12

June 15: (special day): Noah Podolefsky: using video and transcript analysis to study student use of analogy

June 21: DBER: Merry Havens: CU Teacher Prep - an insider's perspective

Jun 28: PER: Chandra Turpen: an Activity Theoretic analysis of faculty practices using PER-tools

July 10: 1:30p -11th floor Gamow Tower - NOTE TIME CHANGE TO 1:30p
SPECIAL EVENT: BRIAN GRAVEL- Tufts University: Center for Engineering Educaiton Outreach:
Children's Multiple Representations of Their Ideas about Science

July 12: PER GROUP MEETING: Lauren Kost: The Gender Gap in Physics: preliminary analyzes of sources

Jul 19: DBER Meeting, Porter 121: 11:30am Ed's Tools: Mike Klymkowsky

Jul 26: AAPT Practice Talks.

Aug 9: DBER Meeting: Porter Bio-Sciences

Aug 16: Mariel Desroche: the Learning Assistant Program and impact on physics majors

Aug 30: PER Group Meeting: Baily on Modern Physics reforms

Aug 30: DBER Group Meeting: Mary Nelson: Math reforms (Porter B121)

Sep 6: PER Group Meeting: Noah Finkelstein, a revisionist history of the field of PER

Sep 13: No group meeting: Rosh HaShannah

Sep 20: Laurel Mayhew: The Sophomore physics Labs and Informal Science Education

Sept 27: Noah Podolefsky: teaching competence with analogies in physics

Oct 4: Scott Simkins, NC A&T - PER and Economics Education Research

Oct 11: Group Meeting: Archie Paulson Studying PhET Sims: CCK in Tutorials

Oct 18: Sam McKagan - Student Reasoning about Analogies

Oct 25: Kathy Perkins, the CLASS and current research - BRITISH STUDIES ROOM 11:45a

Nov 1: Group Meeting: Bud Talbot III: The Flexible Application of Student-Centered Instruction (FASCI)

Nov 8: No Group Meeting

Nov 15: Reading group & Special Guest Speaker: Michael Marder, UT Austin and UTeach program

Nov 15: Reading group & Special Guest Speaker: Michael Marder, UT Austin and UTeach program

Nov 21: NOON - SPECIAL SESSION - Barry Kluger-Bell, the Assistant Director for the Institute for Inquiry.

Nov 29: Group Meeting. Dr. Douglas Duncan on the Nature of Science and Pseudoscience

Dec 6: Group Meeting:. Special Guest: S. Raj Chaudhury, CNU -Technology in Teaching

Dec 13: Dr. Laurel Mayhew: University-Community Partnerships


Jan 17: 12:30p PER Group Mtg: Valerie Otero - CU Teach, the NMSI, and what to do with $2.4M

Jan 24: 12:30p PER Group Meeting: Stephanie Chasteen, E&M upper division revisions

Jan 31: Grp Mtg: Reading Group: Henderson and Dancy paper on instructional change (or lack thereof)

Feb 7: Darren Tarshis: Unpacking the Hidden Curriculum

Feb 14: Charles Baily: QM and understanding of measurement and probability (probably)

Feb 21: Lauren Kost: Examining the Gender Gap in Physics

Feb 28: Turpen: on transforming upper division physics... what can we measure?

Mar 6: Tom Bing: University of Maryland: Mathematics and Physics

Mar 13: Dancy (UNCC) and Henderson: Instructional Change

Mar 20: McKagan: PhET workshops in Africa

April 3: Paulson on research on PhET simulations and what gets students to say "A Ha!"

April 10: Group meeting TBD- Kohl and Kuo visiting from Mines

April 17: Lincoln Carr: Colorado School of Mines: Graduate Quantum Mechanics Education Reform
We address four main areas in which graduate quantum mechanics education in the U.S. can be improved: textbook; course content; teaching methods; and assessment tools. We report on a three year longitudinal study at the Colorado School of Mines using innovations in all four of these areas. We present a new assessment tool, the graduate quantum mechanics conceptual survey. Among our most important findings are that students' grasp of undergraduate concepts are not improved upon in a standard graduate course.

April 24: Renee Michelle Goertzen
UniverUnderstanding TAs Teaching Physics: Framing, Video, and Tutorials
Using video of TAs teaching tutorials at the University of Maryland, I'll discuss how we are using framing to make sense of what they do in the classroom. In the second part of the meeting, I'll show some clips of a CU Boulder TA and ask for your assistance in thinking about how he frames tutorials.sity of Maryland Physics Education Research Group

May 1: Tom Pentecost: Dept of Chemistry - transforming recitations and TA training

May 8: Group Meeting: Derek Briggs, Education: the FASCI (developing pedagogical content knowledge & assessment)

May 15: Reading Group: Kaminsky on Abstraction in Science

May 22: Group Meeting: Laura Moin, Education: the Learning Assistant Program an impact on the LAs

Jun 5 : Group Meeting: Lauren Kost: the Persistence of the Gender Gap in Intro Physics

Jun 12: Group Meeting: Andrea Bair: geoscience and PER: what do students know about density?

Jun 19: Charles Baily: student understanding of quantum measurement

Jun 26: Group Meeting: Turpen: debrief of the STEM Change Conference

Jul 3:Gather for lunch, prepare for Independence Day

Jul 10:Group Meeting: bring papers / posters for review

Jul 17:Group Meeting: AAPT Prep part 2bring papers / posters for review

Jul 24:No Group Meeting: AAPT

July 31: James Gee at Group Meting

Aug 14: Archie P and Noah P on PhET Research

Aug 28: Stephanie C. granting writing for foundations

Sept 3: Chandra Turpen: student perception of faculty practices & comps 3

Sept 10: Valerie Otero: Intro to PER Methods Chapter

Sep 18: Finkelstein Grp Mtg I3: Towards a Center for STEM Education

Sep 25: Karen King Physics 1000 as part of the Gold Shirt program in Engineering

Oct 2: Jo Handelsman NRC Report on WOmen in Science [11:30a at JILA ]

Oct 9: Charles Baily: Atomic Modeling in the Early 20th Century

Oct 16: Geoff Cohen: Stereotype Threat and studies in science

Oct 23: Jessica Watkins (Harvard University): clicker and gender

Oct 30: Noah P: Analogical Scaffolding and Dynamics of Student reasoning

Nov 6: Dan Schwartz: Transfer of Learning

Nov 13: Group Meeting

Nov 20:Stephanie Chasteen: Physics Major Alumni Survey

Nov 27;Charles Baily: What's up with Determinism?

Dec 3 : John S. Hutchinson, Rice University, The Concept Development Study Approach to Teaching General Chemistry.

Dec 10: No Group Meeting,

Dec 17: end of term discussion of current research topics


Jan 7: Group Meeting: Planning for the coming semester.

January 8, 2009: informal group meeting, lunch discussion of semester

Jan 15, 2009: Kost, Finkelstein Pollock: the Gender Gaps in Physics

Jan 22, 2009: National Task Force on Teacher Preparation in Physics

Jan 22: 2009: Rachel Scherr (UMD & LIFE Center UW): Spontaneous everyday science talk in the classroom

Jan 29, 2009: USAF visit Robert Lee, Gregor Novak ( physics) and Brent Morris (Academy Director of Faculty Development)

Feb 5: Brian Frank, University of Maryland, Physics Education Research Group (see abstract above)

Feb 12 Noah Podolefsky: CU PhET: What's up with Analogy and Simulation

Feb 19: Ben Spike: on TAs and LAs

Feb 26: Colin Wallace on Tutorials in E/M & Astronomy

Mar 5: Laurel Mayhew: Informal Science and University Student Learning

Mar 12 Katja Friedrich and Scott Kittelman, AtOc Sciences

Mar 19: Ayush Gupta, U Maryland, The Dynamics of Constructing Meaning in Physics (abstract above)

Mar 26: Spring Break

Apr 2: May Lee: Modeling programs in physics

Apr 9: Jose Mestere: SPECIAL MEETING TIME 10:30a

Apr 16: Spring Cleaning: Group Updates on Activities

Apr 23: Charles Baily on Developing Quantum Perspectives

Apr 30: APS practice Talks

May 5: Special Group Meeting: Chandralekha Singh (U Pitt) on Helping students learn to reflect on problem solving - see above.

May 7: Charles Baily- Course practices and Student Perspectives in Quantum Mechanics

May 14: Reading Group Starts

May 21: Robert Lamboune, Open University, piCETL and IOP, UK (see below)

May 28: Group Meeting: Chandra Turpen: the Culture of Tutorials

Jun 4: Grp: State Standard

Jun 11: Group Mtg: Pollock, Longitudinal Studies

Jun 18: Group Mtg: Spike, TA/ LA predictions of student difficulties

Jun 25: Group Mtg: Mike Dubson on Faculty Perception of Quantum

Jul 2: Group Mtg: Charles Baily: Faculty Variation and its Impact on Student Perspectives in QuantumMechanics

Jul 9: Grp Mtg: Heidi Iverson: Review of PER based reforms and meta-study of effects

Jul 16: Group Mtg: AAPT Preparation Part 1

July 23: Group Mtg: AAPT Prep part 2.

July 30 AAPT Meeting

Aug 6: Group Mtg: AAPT/PERC Debrief

Aug 13: 9:40a Alex Fout, REU paper on problem context

Aug 20: Jean Hertzberg, Mech E, Flow Visuapzation

Aug 27: Scherr UW/UMd, Applying the Algebra Project to Physics

Sept 3: Group Mtg: ISTEM Graduate Students Lauren Kost, Ben Spike, Kim Tranbath and Colin Wallace

Sept 10: Grp Mtng: Charles Baily, Variety and Consistency of Student Perspectives in Quantum Physics

Sept 17: Todd Rusell, Colorado School of Mines, an update on PER activities at CSM

Sept 24: Stephanie Chasteen and Colin Wallace, Student Understanding of Ampere's Law

Oct 1: Chasteen & Wallace, Continued discussion of Student Understanding of Amerpe's Law

Oct 8: Informal Group Meeting

Oct 15: Ben Spike, on TAs/LAs development of sophisticated ideas about teaching

Oct 22: Noah Podoloefsky, Towards a model of implicit scaffolding: characterizing complexity in PhET sims

Nov 5: Lauren Kost on Identity and Self-efficacy in Introductory Physics

Nov 19: Chandra Turpen, Research on the process of adopting and institutionalizing tutorials in introductory physics & students' reactions to the curriculum

Dec 3: Deb Morrison, Acculturation Into Science Teaching: A Heterogeneous Process

Dec 10: Steven Pollock, Reports on experiences from teaching in the Paradigms in Physics Program at Univ. of Oregon


Jan 14: Ed Johnsen

Jan 21: Jordan Brown, iSTEM Evaluation

Jan 28: Stephanie Chasteen, Screening of "How to Use Clickers Effectively" video and an informal discussion of (workshops on) effective clicker use, and the sort of PR/outreach that we might all be interested in getting involved with.

Feb 4: May Lee: Goals, Activities, and Opportunities in Introductory Physics Labs for non-physics majors (e.g. biologists)

Feb 11: Caryn Burnett & Mike Dubson, Studies of Student Homework Habits, Approaches, and Success in Introductory Physics ---and the Gender Differences therein

Feb 18: Steve Goldhaber, "What are our students learning in quantum mechanics?" I will give a brief overview of the work that has been done over the last two years to transform the upper-division quantum mechanics course. I will then introduce the assessment tool that we have developed to measure student learning in QM. After looking at some of the data, I will beg for help to fit these pieces into an outline of a paper I am trying to write on the assessment tool.

Feb 25: Charlie Baily, The perspectives of introductory classical physics students can often negatively influence how those students later interpret quantum phenomena when taking an introductory course in modern physics. A detailed exploration of student perspectives on the interpretation of quantum physics is needed, both to characterize student understanding of physics concepts, and to inform how we might teach traditional content. Our previous efforts to characterize student perspectives on quantum physics have indicated that they can be highly nuanced, and may vary both within and across contexts. In order to better understand the contextual and often seemingly contradictory stances of students on matters of interpretation, we interviewed nineteen students from four introductory modern physics courses taught at the University of Colorado. We find that students have attitudes and opinions that often parallel the stances of expert physicists when arguing for their favored interpretations of quantum mechanics, allowing for more nuanced characterizations of student perspectives in terms of four key interpretive themes. We present a framework for characterizing student perspectives on quantum mechanics and demonstrate its utility in interpreting the sometime contradictory nature of student responses to previous surveys. We find that students hold sophisticated views that can often account for their seemingly contradictory statements. Furthermore, we find that students often vacillate in their responses when what makes intuitive sense to them is not in agreement with what they consider to be a correct response, underscoring the need to distinguish between the personal and the public perspectives of introductory modern physics students.

Mar 4: Chandra Turpen: Documenting and Modeling Educational Transformation in Introductory Physics: Research on the changing educational practices of professors, institutions, and students

Mar 11: Rachel Pepper: Student learning difficulties in upper-division electricity and magnetism. Or, how to stop worrying and learn to love the line-integral

Mar 18: Kara Gray

Apr 1: Laurel Mayhew

Apr 8:

Apr 15: Kathy Perkins: Updates, opportunities, and research findings from PhET! (interactive computer simulations,

Apr 22: Ben Spike & Jeff Klukas (Research Assistant, Physics, UW-Madison) - Making Group Work Work: Teaching TAs to Lead Cooperative Group Work - While the education literature clearly suggests that instructors can realize greater learning outcomes for their students through active learning activities, they rarely receive any training on how to use active techniques successfully. In response to this problem, I developed a workshop focused on teaching TAs how to facilitate cooperative group work. In this talk, I will discuss the development of that workshop along with results from assessments that demonstrate its effectiveness.

Apr 29: Diane Sieber (Director and Associate Professor, Herbst Program of Humanities, College of Engineering and Applied Science, Presidential Teaching Scholar, and Big Thinker) - “Social Networks and Student Learning” with a bonus topic “The Death of Ning: What are the alternatives?”

May 13: Kiziah, Patterson, Novak, Lee, and Novotny

May 27: Reading Group - We'll be reading the executive summary of Scientific Research in Education. This is a 2002 report by the National Research Council (NRC). Briefly, Scientific Research in Education describes the similarities and differences between scientific inquiry in education and scientific inquiry in other fields and disciplines and provides a number of examples to illustrate these ideas. Its main argument is that all scientific endeavors share a common set of principles, and that each field, including education research, develops a specialization that accounts for the particulars of what is being studied. The book also provides suggestions for how the federal government can best support high-quality scientific research in education. The summary can be found here. How much, if any, of this has actually made it into legislation? We can get a 1st order idea of this by reading pages 26-27 of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Here are some questions to get us started: (1) What does the NRC define as "scientific", and do we agree? (2) Regardless of what they say, what actually happens in education research (or research)? (3) Has (or should) the NRC report have any effect on how research is conducted...or evaluated as being "scientific" (or not)? (4) How much of this has made it into legislation (and is this good or bad?)

Jun 6: Lauren Kost Smith - The Gender Gap in introductory physics - and the surprising effects of affirmation interventions.

Jun 17: Noah Finkelstein - What should New Faculty in Physics know about Assessment (of student learning)?

Jun 24: Kelly Lancaster - Concept learning vs. problem solving (in chemistry). In this meeting, we discussed the design of a new chemistry simulation and the results of using the sim in recitation.

Jul 1: AAPT / PERC Prep Session

Jul 8: AAPT / PERC Prep Session

Jul 15: AAPT / PERC Prep Session

Jul 29: Debrief AAPT / PERC

Aug 5: Noah Podolefsky and Kathy Perkins presenting / discussing PhET and middle school with their upcoming trip to O'Donnell Foundation

Aug 12: Discussion about our inner Achilles.

Aug 19: Bruce Alberts - This was an interactive session with Bruce Alberts, who was on campus to deliver the Best Should Teach Lecture. Alberts is a former president of NAS, editor of Science, and strong advocate of discipline based education research. We heard short presentations from: Kara Gray (School of Ed): Do former LAs make better secondary teachers?; Kathy Perkins (Physics/PhET/SEI): Presenting on CLASS or PhET (a little mystery); Mike Klymkowsky (MCDB): Biological system, graphical thinking, and Socratic interventions; Mary Nelson (Applied Math): Oral Assessments: Do they work?; Steve Pollock (Physics): Research based approach to transforming upper division physics

Aug 26: Chandra Turpen - How physics faculty learn about, adopt, and implement new research-based instructional strategies?

Sep 2: Bruce McMullen - Pedagogies for Primary School Teachers

Sep 9: Kara Gray & Ben Spike - Seattle Pacific's Professional Development for K12 Physics teachers

Sep 16: Karen Knaus, CU Denver Chemistry - Measuring Students’ Perceptions of the Complexity of Chemistry Learning Content - Chemistry is considered a complex domain of learning. Perception plays an important role in the learning process. Whether perceptions are related to understanding particular concepts or the difficulty and mental effort invested in tasks, students’ perceptions are an important part of the learning process and should not be ignored. This project explores how students’ perceptions of the complexity of general chemistry learning content contribute to their learning and performance in first-year college chemistry. Development of new assessment instruments is the focus of this research.

Sep 23: Group Updates

Sep 30: Ben Spike on the development of TA and LA ability to predict student difficulties in introductory physics: impacts of Tutorial training.

Oct 7: Steve Pollock - Discussing the Physics Major- Plan 3: track towards licensure. How can we make this feasible / realistic for a 4 year degree -- can we reduce the credits somewhere? Where does Teaching and Learning Physics fit in best? How can we combine the lab requirements and fit with the UTeach requirement for a research-methods course? How can all of this be done and be valued by the department.

Oct 14: No group meeting this week!

Oct 21: Noah Podolefsky and Kelly Lancaster- The complexity of operationalizing computer simulations.

Oct 28: Valerie Otero on the National Task Force in Physics Teacher Education.

Nov 4: Melissa Dancy- Faculty Adoption of RBIS

Nov 11: Ben Zwickel- Upper Division Lab Reforms

Nov 18: Ben Spike on TA/LA Perceptions and Actions


Dec 2: Dawn Rickey, CER Colorado State- Lab and Recitation Innovations: MORE Thinking Frame and invention activities. Results revealed three cognitive processes that were highly correlated with transfer success, and suggest that integrating activities that promote these key thinking processes into instruction could substantially improve students’ understanding and abilities to apply scientific models effectively in new contexts. Studies Exploring: (1) relationships between aspects of students' instructional experiences and their engagement in the key cognitive processes identified and (2) relationships among quality of students' self assessments, instructor feedback, and the quality of students' written models. Finally, the relationship between students' epistemologies (as measured by the CLASS-chem) and their general chemistry exam performance.

Dec 9: Lynn Stephens, University of Massachusetts: Student Interpretation of Physics Simulations in Whole Class and Small Group Settings: Scaffolding the Use of Visual Affordances: This investigates student interactions with simulations in naturalistic high school physics classroom settings. The talk focuses on data collected from a lesson sequence using PhET Energy Skate Park.

Dec 16: Finals and Holiday Parties! Congratulations on another successful semester!

Dec 23: TBA

Dec 30: TBA