Physics Education Seminar

semester, 2018


Friday, January 19th 2018
4:40 pm:
Organizational Meeting. Time and place of seminar will resume to match class schedule next week.

Friday, January 26th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Miranda Straub
Subject:  Instructor beliefs about homework

This talk will present the initial analysis of 25 physics instructor interviews from post-secondary institutions around the state of Minnesota. The interviews focused on problem solving, and this talk will highlight beliefs about homework. Specifically, what do instructors think students should do and learn while they are doing homework.


Friday, February 2nd 2018
1:35 pm:
There is no seminar this week.

Friday, February 9th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Kaylee Ganser
Subject: The Effect of Active Learning Classes on Introductory Physics Student Performance at UMN-Duluth

In order to determine the effect the new active learning classroom had on academic gains for introductory physics students at UMN-Duluth, we analyzed three data sets: the scores from a diagnostic test given at both the beginning and end of the semester (the Force Concept Inventory) and the scores from a common problem on the final exam (scored using a common checklist) for Spring 2016, and the FCI scores for Fall 2016. For the Spring 2016 semester, we
compared 3 Active Learning classes with a lecture group as a control, and for Fall 2016, all sections were Active Learning. For Spring 2016, we found that, for sufficiently ‘Active Learning’ style based teaching methods, the active learning classroom improved student scores compared to previous data, but the lecture section failed as a control due to various factors. For the Fall 2016 classes, the academic gains were less than both of Spring 2016’s data sets and past data, which indicates that additional criteria beyond simply moving into an Active Learning style classroom may be necessary to improve student scores or that students are learning skills not testable by the FCI. Academic gains made by women and racial minority students are suggestive of an improvement in active learning classes, but more data is needed to determine the true extent of this effect.


Friday, February 16th 2018
3:35 pm:
To be announced.

Friday, February 23rd 2018
3:35 pm:
To be announced.

Friday, March 2nd 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Miranda Straub, University of Minnesota
Subject: Discussions of papers regarding uncertainty in physics education

We will be discussing papers regarding uncertainty in physics education. The first paper is a model of quantitative uncertainty that can be used in science education, and the second is a study of uncertainty in a physics course. Both papers will be presented with questions to be discussed. Muffins provided.
Learning About Measurement Uncertainties in Secondary Education: A Model of the Subject Matter
Priemer, B. & Hellwig, J. Int J of Sci and Math Educ (2018) 16: 45. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-016-9768-0

When and Why Are the Values of Physical Quantities Expressed with Uncertainties? A Case Study of a Physics Undergraduate Laboratory Course
Caussarieu, A. & Tiberghien, A. Int J of Sci and Math Educ (2017) 15: 997. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-016-9734-x


Friday, March 9th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Karl A. Smith, Morse-Alumni Distinguished University Teaching Professor, Professor of Civil, Environmental and Geo- Engineering, Emeritus, University of Minnesota
Subject: Engineering Education Research: Emergence, Current Status, and Future Directions

Engineering education research has been part of the landscape of engineering education for many years and began to be formalized with the creation of the American Society for Engineering Education Educational Research and Methods Division over 40 years ago. The field achieved significant advancement with the creation of PhD granting engineering education departments in the mid-2000s.
The seminar focuses on the historical roots of engineering education research, summarizes the current status, and offers some thoughts on the future.
The speaker has been active in engineering education research since the early 1970s and played a major role in the development of the first engineering education PhD granting department.


Friday, March 23rd 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Brita L. Nellermoe, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN
Subject: Piaget and Vygotsky as a Foundation for Physics Education

The educational psychology of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget and Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky shaped the 20th Century's understanding of how children and adults learn. These learning theories are the basis for much of the late 20th and early 21st century reform of science education in the United States. This talk will discuss the similarities and differences of Piaget and Vygotsky's theories of learning and how they apply to current Physics Education curriculum.


Friday, March 30th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Jie Yang (PER Group from University of Minnesota)
Subject: Quantify the difficulty of physics problems

Assessment methods are broadly recognised as integral to effective instruction. Student performance on tests are a common way for instructors to gauge their instructional effectiveness. However, Lack of alignments of problem difficulty between instructors, institutions, and courses is the major obstacle to make use of authentic student performance data gathered by most classes and used by instructors. In this presentation, I will describe the development and validation of a simple difficulty assessment for assessing open response physics problems’ difficulty. It quantify the difficulty of physics problems. It can be used to compare test or homework problems , or to craft instruction material.


Friday, April 6th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Lori Patrick, University of Minnesota
Subject: Active learning: what are faculty and student perceptions across disciplines and how should we train teaching assistants to use it?

Active learning teaching techniques – such as clicker questions, group work, think-pair-share, and other activities – benefit all students and can close the achievement gap for under-represented minority, first-generation, and female students in STEM disciplines. Consequently, many courses have been integrating these techniques into their labs and lectures. Several initiatives have focused on training faculty, however there has been relatively little emphasis, at least in biology, to understand faculty and student perceptions of active learning and how these perceptions differ by discipline. Even less is known about graduate student perceptions of active learning and the best strategies to train teaching assistants to use active learning. This talk will focus on some of the work being conducted in the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning to address these questions.


Friday, April 13th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Laura McCullough, UW-Stout
Subject: Women in Physics Leadership.

Women in Physics Leadership: Women’s representation in physics has increased to 20% and now is holding steady. Women’s representation in physics leadership positions is much smaller. Whether as department chair, journal editor, or professional society president, women are much less visible as leaders in the physics community. Data on women’s leadership in physics will be shared, and discussion will be encouraged.


Friday, April 20th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Jennifer Docktor, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse Dept. of Physics
Subject: Using the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning Framework to Develop Prospective Teachers’ Scientific Explanations in Physics

The Framework for K-12 Science Education provides a common vision for what students should know and be able to do upon finishing high school. It proposes that students should learn science by engaging in the practices used by scientists, such as planning and carrying out investigations, modeling, and developing explanations based on evidence. However, most prospective K-12 teachers have limited preparation for how to teach science using these practices. In this study, one section of a physical science course for elementary education majors received explicit instruction and scaffolding on using the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning (CER) framework for constructing scientific explanations and one section served as a comparison group. I will describe the study design, course curriculum, assessment data collected, and scoring rubrics. A preliminary analysis indicates a relationship between prospective teachers’ abilities to construct scientific explanations using the CER framework and their long term retention of physical science content.


Friday, April 27th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Dr. Sashank Varma, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota
Subject: How We Understand Mathematics

Mathematicians, logicians, and philosophers have contemplated for millennia the question of how people understand mathematics – of how its concepts can be both abstract and unreasonably effective for describing the physical world and engineering it to our purposes. Over a much shorter time scale – the last 50 years or so – psychologists and neuroscientists have begun taking a naturalized approach to this question, regarding mathematics as a phenomenon to be explained using the scientific method. This research has revealed how people understand fundamental numerical and arithmetical concepts, the neural correlates of this understanding, and its remarkable conservation across evolution and development. And increasingly, this research is revealing the mental mechanisms that support understanding of advanced, abstract concepts from number theory, geometry, and topology. In this talk, I review some of this research, including my own work. I also connect these scientific efforts to earlier, more introspective efforts to understand the nature of mathematics.


Friday, May 4th 2018
3:35 pm:
No seminar; Practice presentation

Friday, May 11th 2018
3:35 pm:
There will be no seminar this week.

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