Physics Education Seminar

semester, 2015


Friday, January 23rd 2015
3:35 pm:
To be announced

Friday, January 30th 2015
3:35 pm:
To be announced.

Friday, February 6th 2015
3:35 pm:
To be announced.

Friday, February 13th 2015
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Ken Heller, University of Minnesota
Subject: A Systems Approach to Teaching: Why the Introductory Physics Courses at Minnesota Work and How They Can Fail.

This seminar will be a discussion of the parts that go into the structure of the
introductory physics courses at the University of Minnesota. The design of these courses is based on empirical studies and general principles of cognitive science to fit the constraints and institutional goals of the University. We will discuss the goals of the course, the pedagogy employed and the impact of the structure on students, TAs, and faculty. Within this learning framework important considerations are the role of the faculty, TAs, and students and the purpose of lectures, laboratories, discussion sections, problems, and tests. We will also discuss how the outcomes of the course can be changed, for better or worse, and what changes cause it to fail.


Friday, February 20th 2015
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Miranda Pihlaja, University of Minnesota
Subject: College in Schools: The benefits, drawbacks, and challenges of implementation for physics

This talk will compare several college-credit programs available
to high school students including CIS, AP, IB, and PSEO. I will highlight
the benefits of the CIS program and discuss the challenges to
implementation. The benefits of the CIS program include high school
students being able to take courses in their school, not having the credit
based on one test at the end of the year, and receiving credit for a UMN
course instead of just elective credits. Challenges to implementation
include teacher selection, number of teachers in a cohort, establishing
essential and non-essential components of the courses, and teacher
evaluations. The two physics courses available through the CIS program are
PHYS1101W and PSTL1163.


Friday, February 27th 2015
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Leon Hsu, University of Minnesota
Subject: Using the Cognitive Apprenticeship Framework to Inform and Shape Instruction in Physics

Of the many types of instruction that have been used throughout human history, the apprenticeship framework is one of the most successful and enduring and its imprint can be found in a wide variety of contexts, including the coaching of elite athletes, the training of professional musicians, and the education of physics graduate students. In this talk, I will discuss the idea of a "cognitive apprenticeship," which brings ideas from the apprenticeship framework into the academic arena, as well as how it has been used to design undergraduate physics instruction at the University of Minnesota.


Friday, March 6th 2015
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Peter Bohacek, Sibley Senior High
Subject: Using Generation-2 Direct Measurement Videos for student inquiry

New Direct Measurement Videos allow students to vary parameters, and to select and position measurement tools. For example, a Gen-2 DMV allows students to vary the constant force on a cart to measure the resulting acceleration. Students can plot the relationship between force and acceleration. With these new tools, students can make decisions about how best to analyze the situation.

I'll show examples of how this has been implemented in my classroom, and on the MIT and BU physics MOOCs, and discuss preliminary results from last summer's AB testing in the MIT MOOC.

I'll also discuss how students can use DMVs and measurement uncertainty to explore the limits of the simplified models.


Friday, March 13th 2015
3:35 pm:
There will be no seminar this week.

Friday, March 20th 2015
3:35 pm:
There will be no seminar this week.

Friday, March 27th 2015
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Julie Vievering, University of Minnesota
Subject: Reimagining the Physics TA: A Deeper Look Into the Essential Role of Coach

In this seminar, I will discuss the role of a TA in the Minnesota Model for teaching physics from my perspective as both a TA for the intro physics courses and a mentor to the new graduate and undergraduate TAs. In addition, this session will explore the learning theories which connect to the coaching methods used by TAs, contrasting these methods with more traditional ones, and highlight the opportunities that the structure of our discussions/labs creates for our students. Finally, after noting the pedagogical benefits of the ideal form of the model and the importance of the TA in facilitating the learning process, we will discuss the challenges that physics TAs in our department often face, and explore possible remedies.


Friday, April 3rd 2015
3:35 pm:
There will be no seminar this week.

Friday, April 10th 2015
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Brita L. Nellermoe, University of St. Thomas
Subject: The gap: Where faculty perceptions of teaching and learning disconnect from practice.

Faculty perceptions of teaching and learning and the functionality of those perceptions in the classroom have been studied for over 20 years now. Understanding of these ideas has led to curriculum changes that better engage students and employ faculty understanding. These same studies have shown that there is a gap in implementation of these curriculum that can effect student outcomes. This talk will be an overview of past studies and discuss where this gap may lie. Next step research proposals will also be discussed.


Friday, April 17th 2015
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Nathan Moore, Winona State University
Subject: Small Oscillations via Energy Conservation as a University Physics Lab

Friday, April 24th 2015
3:35 pm:
There will be no seminar this week.

Friday, May 1st 2015
3:35 pm:
To be announced.

Friday, May 8th 2015
3:35 pm:
There will be no seminar this week.

Thursday, June 18th 2015
3:00 pm:
Speaker: Ntiana Sachmpazidi, Central Michigan University
Subject: Internet Computer Coaches for Introductory Physics Problem Solving Implemented at CMU

A primary goal of introductory physics courses is to help students develop problem-solving and related critical thinking skills. A physics education research group at the University of Minnesota (UMN) has developed internet-based coaches to help students learn problem-solving, guiding students through a systematic framework for a number of individual physics problems. Initial tests with students from introductory physics courses at UMN indicate that users found the coaches helpful and that those students who actively used the coaches improved their performance on problem-solving components of course exams as compared to similar students who had not used the coaches. In this project, we investigate whether these positive results can be replicated at Central Michigan University. Students in an introductory physics course were given homework assignments that included the coach problems. Students could voluntarily use the coaches to help them complete their assignments. Keystroke data were recorded to monitor how/whether students used the coaches. Students also completed surveys containing questions regarding their opinions of the coaches. The data have been analyzed to address the following issues: the usage and usability of the coaches, their usefulness as perceived by students, and the characteristics of the students who do and don’t use the coaches. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop effective practices for teaching and learning problem-solving in introductory physics courses.


Wednesday, September 16th 2015
Speaker: Chandralekha Singh, University of Pittsburgh
Subject: Discussion: Facilitating thinking and learning in physics classroom

CANCELLED due to travel issues but a discussion is scheduled with Professor Singh from 5-6:00 in 230 Bruininks Hall for those who would like to pursue the topic less formally. Learning physics is challenging. There are only a few fundamental principles of physics that are condensed in compact mathematical forms. Learning physics requires unpacking these fundamental principles and understanding their applicability in a variety of contexts. In this talk, I will discuss our research that has implications for helping students learn to think like a physicist and improving their problem solving, reasoning and metacognitive skills.

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