Texas Tech University

Physics Education Research Seminar

The TTU Physics Education Research (PER) Seminar is open to all TTU students, faculty, and staff. Future topics will include assessment at all levels, assessment of lab, mathematical and higher order thinking skills, research, teaching and curriculum development at the upper level and graduate level, inquiry-based instruction and other pedagogies (find out what they really are), reflection as a tool for assessing critical thinking, faculty and other instructors perceptions of teaching and physics education research, summaries of major work and projects being done elsewhere and other topics of interest in the field.

The seminar is coordinated by Dr. Beth Thacker, Associate Professor of Physics.

Upcoming Seminar Meetings

Date: Thursday, October 19
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Lesley Duke
Topic: Female Persistence in STEM
Synopsis:

As a nation, we have not solved the gender gap problem within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic degree-fields and professional workforce. Female persistence in STEM is a national, societal, and educational priority and heavily researched in higher education literature. Theoretical frameworks that focus on female persistence within the STEM domain primarily focus on identity, self-efficacy, demographics, socio-economic status, and achievement. Students' demographic variables are statistically significant to academic achievement in STEM disciplines, however educational experiences for females tend to remain unchanged (Tinto, 1998). The breadth of research of female persistence in higher education literature does not change the desired outcome, equal representation of females in STEM degree fields and professional workforces. The purpose of the study is to examine the perspectives of institutional leadership surrounding institutional characteristics to further explore the lack of persistence of undergraduate females pursuing STEM degree fields at 4-year, public, Tier 1 institutions in Texas.


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Previous Seminar Meetings

Date: Thursday, October 12
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Zhuang Zhuang
Topic: Analysis of students' performance based on Bloom's taxonomy
Synopsis:

The results of an analysis of free response questions using a rubric based on Bloom's taxonomy are presented. Free response (FR) is a form of assessment that can be used to evaluate thinking skills. According to Bloom's taxonomy, there are six levels of thinking skills: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. We coded a set of data from a large-scale assessment at Texas Tech University used to examine FR, multiple choice (MC) and mixed format (MC/FR) questions. We also interviewed a subset of the students on their answers to one problem, allowing us to evaluate the students' thinking skills in two settings. The interviews were coded using the same rubric based on Bloom's taxonomy and the results of the written format and the interviews were then compared.

Date: Thursday, October 5
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Jerry Dwyer
Topic: What is a tensor? A mathematician teaches mechanics
Synopsis:

We explore the mathematical ideas underlying the concepts of force and pressure. The theories of vectors and tensors are explored. How much mathematics is required of the student who takes a course in mechanics or elasticity? What are the implications for teaching such a course?

Date: Thursday, Sept 28
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Ken Griffith
Topic: Using Observational Protocols to Measure Instructional Effectiveness
Synopsis:

Nobel Laureate Physicist, Carl Wieman and colleagues, developed and validated an observation instrument to more objectively characterize STEM classroom instruction in higher education. The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS), which is commonly used in STEM faculty development and in discipline-based education research, is intended to enable researchers and faculty developers to collect data on the classroom techniques being used by STEM faculty. The Center for Educational Effectiveness at University of California Davis created a web-based system (Generalized Observation & Reflection Protocol (GORP)) to make collecting and analyzing these data in real time more manageable. Dr. Ken Griffith, from the STEM Teaching, Engagement & Pedagogy (STEP) Program in the TTU Teaching, Learning & Professional Development Center will introduce and demonstrate both the COPUS and GORP during this week's Physics Education Research Seminar.

Date: Thursday, Sept 19
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Dr. Steven Pollock
Topic: A research-validatated approach to transforming upper-division physics courses
Synopsis:

Dr. Pollock will be telling us about the work his group is doing within this topic. This will be an informal discussion where participants can also share work being done at Texas Tech on this topic.

Date: Thursday, Sept 14
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Jerry Dwyer
Topic: Pedagogical Content Knowledge for teaching in the STEM disciplines
Synopsis:

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is the deep content knowledge of subject matter combined with the elements of pedagogical understanding that enable effective teaching. These include multiple representations and diverse approaches as well as an understanding of student misconceptions. The seminar will examine these elements through the lens of fundamental topics in mathematics, science, and engineering.

Date: Thursday, Sept 7
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Lesley Duke & Beth Thacker
Topic: Assessing Thinking Skills
Synopsis:

We examined the results of free-response questions as part of a large-scale assessment of our introductory courses, including an analysis of thinking skills both qualitatively and with a rubric based on Bloom's taxonomy. We compare the results of students taught traditionally and non-traditionally. The non-traditionally taught students were enrolled in a hands-on, laboratory-based physics course taught without a lecture and without a text. Students worked through the materials developed for the course, doing experiments to explore the world around them and developing qualitative and quantitative models based on their experimentation. We discuss their thinking skills as evidenced on exams and homework compared to traditional classes.

Date: Thursday, August 30
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Beth Thacker
Topic: What I did this summer
Synopsis:

Informal discussion of participants' summer conferences, research or teaching.

Date: Thursday, May 4
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Group Discussion
Topic: What it the Future of Discipline-based Education Research in STEM at TTU?
Synopsis:

We will discuss the future of DBER in STEM at TTU. This will include topics such as where it should be housed, how it connects to STEM-CORE, TLPDC, Education, Science Education and the disciplines, areas of overlap and areas of integration, as well as the mission of DBER.

Date: Thursday, April 27
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Dominick Casadonte
Topic: What can STEM CORE do for you?
Synopsis:

We will discuss how the STEM Center for Outreach, Research & Education can help facilitate outreach programs, educational research, and grant writing. The new structure of STEM CORE will be discussed, along with opportunities on how to get involved at the Fellow, Member or Affiliate level.

Date: Thursday, April 20
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Beth Thacker
Topic: Assessing and Teaching Critical Thinking Skills
Synopsis:

We examine some data from a large-scale assessment in physics on a problem administered in multiple formats and analyzed by a rubric based on Bloom's taxonomy. We will then have an open discussion on the need to explicitly teach and assess communication and reasoning skills in STEM fields.

Date: Thursday, April 13
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Group Discussion
Topic: Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Synopsis:

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is the deep content knowledge of the subject matter combined with the elements of pedagogical understanding that enable effective teaching. These include multiple representations and diverse approaches as well as an understanding of student misconceptions. The talk will examine these elements through the lens of fundamental topics in mathematics, science and engineering.

Date: Thursday, April 6
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Ken Griffith
Topic: Peer Instruction in STEM
Synopsis:

Physics Education Researchers describe Peer Instruction (PI) as, “…a student-centered approach to teaching…” Can it translate across all STEM disciplines? Is it equally effective in large and small classrooms? What are the ways that we can leverage Peer Instruction (PI) at Texas Tech? We will discuss the results from Lasry, Mazur and Wakins' 2008 paper, Peer Instruction: From Harvard to the two-year college.

Date: Thursday, March 30
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Jerry Dwyer
Topic: Do we need a course on science literacy?
Synopsis:

What is science literacy? Building on the idea of quantitative literacy should we design courses for science literacy for non-STEM majors? What does a scientifically literate person need to know and understand in the early 21st century? Examples could include climate change, nutrition, smart phones, genetic modification, etc. Should such a course be tailored for different audiences? Should it be offered to freshmen or is it more suited to a senior graduating audience?

Date: Thursday, March 21
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Mark Lattery
Topic: How Are We to Persuade?
Synopsis:

Students come to the first-year introductory science sequence with a variety of alternative conceptions about the physical world that can interfere with their science learning. These conceptions exist independent of gender, age, culture, and ability; and are resistant to change by conventional teaching methods (Wandersee, et al., 1994). How then are we to persuade students to more productive, target conceptions? To spark discussion, I'll share some examples from the PER literature.

Date: Thursday, March 9
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Jianlan Wang
Topic: Scrutinize the knowledge of educators
Synopsis:

Students come to the first-year introductory science sequence with a variety of alternative conceptions about the physical world that can interfere with their science learning. These conceptions exist independent of gender, age, culture, and ability; and are resistant to change by conventional teaching methods (Wandersee, et al., 1994). How then are we to persuade students to more productive, target conceptions? To spark discussion, I'll share some examples from the PER literature.

Date: Thursday, March 2
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Lin Ding
Topic: Building Robust Frameworks for Quantitative Physics Education Research
Synopsis:

While there is an increasing trend to embrace qualitative methods in physics education research (PER), the quantitative tradition of the field is still deeply rooted in many empirical studies. As with any type of scholarly work, quantitative PER is not just data mining or simple application of statistics (a view or a malpractice that largely reflects the common misconception about the nature of this type of work). In fact, quantitative PER requires a sound theoretical basis in order for the outcomes to be meaningful and defensible. In this talk, I address the issue of theorizing quantitative PER with the hope that this research paradigm is neither glorified nor trivialized. Specifically, I invite the seminar participants to join me in exploring the fundamental differences between quantitative studies in PER and those in conventional physics research. It is through this perspective that we continue to discuss the source, function and use of foundational frameworks for quantitative PER. To solidify the message, I present an actual study as an example to illustrate how one can identify or construct a (tentative) framework for empirical studies in PER.

Date: Thursday, February 23
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Jerry Dwyer
Topic: Analyzing the concept inventories
Synopsis:

Concept inventories provide a means of assessing students' deeper understanding of fundamental ideas in physics and mathematics. We will examine some examples of items from these inventories and how they assist in determining student understanding and common misconceptions held by students. We will also discuss the validity and reliability of these items and whether there are inherent biases in their construction. Ongoing refinement of the items should provide greater benefits to instructors and students.

Date: Thursday, February 16
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Charles Ramey
Topic: A Pedagogical Method for Advanced Laboratory Writing: Letters Home Project
Synopsis:

In the spring of 2016 we implemented a writing method called Letters Home (LH) to a Modern Physics lab in a means of teaching students how to communicate scientific ideas. LH permits students to practice scientific writing skills in the form of letters to a non-physicist gradually matriculating to “experts.” The course had a total of 36 students in which we collected 154 letters as research. In the publication Letters Home as an Alternative to Lab Reports, Brian Layne advocates that LH has many advantages for reinforcing the goals of the course by requiring students to explain the implementation of these concepts and practices to a third party. Yet, in our sample data we have we are unable to conceive this assertion. This talk will discuss the inception, ideals, and implementation of LH within our Modern Physics course, and dialogue on what we have inferred from the sample data, currently.

Date: Thursday, February 9
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Jianlan Wang
Topic: Promote the development of students' physics identity through recognition
Synopsis:

Physics identity is how people see themselves in relation to the field of physics based upon both their perceptions of physics and their experiences with physics. Research suggests that students' physics identity in early stages, such as high school, is an important factor in predicting their engagement and persistence in the career of physics. In this presentation, I will introduce the model of context/role oriented identity and its three components, i.e. interest, competence, and recognition. I will also present a study about how teachers' recognition strategies can influence the development of high school students' physics identity.

Date: Thursday, February 2
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Casey Williams
Topic: Teaching Science and Engineering
Synopsis:

When teaching science and engineering principles to new students who are relatively unfamiliar with it in their own lives, the vision and goals that science fiction authors provide to spark interest and creativity has been well-documented. Westfahl (1998) defined science fiction as, "a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision." It is no coincidence that authors like Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, H.G. Wells, Michael Crichton, etc. have drastically affected the landscape of science by propelling people to study in certain areas due to reading these brilliant minds. Arthur C. Clarke even thought up the idea of a geosynchronous satellite that relays radio signals from space to the ground. This creative outlet for science fiction gave us the world we live in today. Is it really prophecy, or does the most popular idea fuel interest in the next generation to create the realities they so desperately want? During this Physics Education Research seminar, I would like to discuss how science fiction has affected our willingness to study or not study certain areas of physics, and science as a whole.

Date: Thursday, January 26
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: SC 118
Presenter: Aimee Cloutier
Topic: Strengthening Problem Solving Skills in Undergraduate Engineering Students
Synopsis:

Students may choose to pursue engineering for a variety of reasons related to identity and interest, among other factors. Some frequently cited reasons for choosing engineering as a major include an interest in problem solving—particularly solving pertinent real-world problems—and a desire to pursue a hands-on career. However, the format of undergraduate engineering classes often does not reflect what an engineer can expect to experience in industry or in research. This difference may lead to graduates who are ill-prepared to enter the workforce and may also contribute to low retention (in particular, retention of students from underrepresented populations is an issue). The purpose of this work is to develop specific classroom strategies which will strengthen the problem solving skills used most often by engineers. These strategies will aim to include the following components: 1) a structure which places value on solutions to problems rather than correct answers to problems; 2) goal-directed learning; 3) real-world context; and 4) a collaborative and multidisciplinary atmosphere. A second goal of this work is to adapt these strategies to reach larger populations of students and educators. Toward this aim, special attention will be given to methods which can improve students' problem solving skills while being applied in schools with limited resources.