Physics - Physics Education Publications (50)

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Physics - Physics Education Publications

Context. Solar observatories are providing the world-wide community with a wealth of data, covering large time ranges, multiple viewpoints, and returning large amounts of data. In particular, the large volume of SDO data presents challenges: it is available only from a few repositories, and full-disk, full-cadence data for reasonable durations of scientific interest are difficult to download practically due to their size and download data rates available to most users. Read More


This theoretical paper introduces a new way to view and characterize teaching and learning astronomy. It describes a framework, based on results from empirical data, analyzed through standard qualitative research methodology, in which a theoretical model for vital competencies of learning astronomy is proposed: Reading the Sky. This model takes into account not only disciplinary knowledge but also disciplinary discernment and extrapolating three-dimensionality. Read More


Instructional labs are widely seen as a unique, albeit expensive, way to teach scientific content. We measured the effectiveness of introductory lab courses at achieving this educational goal across nine different lab courses at three very different institutions. These institutions and courses encompassed a broad range of student populations and instructional styles. Read More


We address previous hypotheses about possible factors influencing the gender gap in attainment in physics. Specifically, previous studies claim that male advantage may arise from multiple-choice style questions, and that scaffolding may preferentially benefit female students. We claim that female students are not disadvantaged by multiple-choice style questions, and also present some alternative conclusions surrounding the scaffolding hypothesis. Read More


The use of computers in statistical physics is common because the sheer number of equations that describe the behavior of an entire system particle by particle often makes it impossible to solve them exactly. Monte Carlo methods form a particularly important class of numerical methods for solving problems in statistical physics. Although these methods are simple in principle, their proper use requires a good command of statistical mechanics, as well as considerable computational resources. Read More


We examine the gender balance of the 18th and 19th meetings of the Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stellar Systems and the Sun (CS18 and CS19). The percent of female attendees at both meetings (31% at CS18 and 37% at CS19) was higher than the percent of women in the American Astronomical Society (25%) and the International Astronomical Union (18%). The representation of women in Cool Stars as SOC members, invited speakers, and contributed speakers was similar to or exceeded the percent of women attending the meetings. Read More


Upper-division physics students spend much of their time solving problems. In addition to their basic skills and background, their epistemic framing can form an important part of their ability to learn physics from these problems. Encouraging students to move toward productive framing is necessary for quality instruction. Read More


The Einstein-First project aims to change the paradigm of school science teaching through the introduction of modern Einsteinian concepts of space and time, gravity and quanta at an early age. These concepts are rarely taught to school students despite their central importance to modern science and technology. The key to implementing the Einstein-First curriculum is the development of appropriate models and analogies. Read More


The spatial dependence of magnetic fields in simple configurations is an usual topic in introductory electromagnetism lessons, both in high school and in university courses. In typical experiments, magnetic fields are obtained taking point-by-point values using a Hall sensor and distances are measured using a ruler. Here, we show how to take advantage of the smartphone capabilities to get simultaneous measures with the built-in accelerometer and magnetometer and to obtain the spatial dependence of magnetic fields. Read More


Quantum entanglement occurs not just in discrete systems such as spins, but also in the spatial wave functions of systems with more than one degree of freedom. It is easy to introduce students to entangled wave functions at an early stage, in any course that discusses wave functions. Doing so not only prepares students to learn about Bell's theorem and quantum information science, but can also provide a deeper understanding of the principles of quantum mechanics and help fight against some common misconceptions. Read More


The advent of microcontrollers with enough CPU power and with analog and digital peripherals makes possible to design a complete particle detector with relative acquisition system around one microcontroller chip. The existence of a world wide data infrastructure as internet allows for devising a distributed network of cheap detectors capable to elaborate and send data or respond to settings commands. The internet infrastructure enables to distribute the absolute time (with precision of few milliseconds), to the simple devices far apart, with few milliseconds precision, from a few meters to thousands of kilometres. Read More


Pencasts are videos of problem solving with narration by the problem solver. Pedagogically, students can create pencasts to illustrate their own problem solving to the instructor or to their peers. Pencasts have implications for teaching at multiple levels from elementary grades through university courses. Read More


Computational Thinking (CT) has been described as an essential skill which everyone should learn and can therefore include in their skill set. Seymour Papert is credited as concretising Computational Thinking in 1980 but since Wing popularised the term in 2006 and brought it to the international community's attention, more and more research has been conducted on CT in education. The aim of this systematic literary review is to give educators and education researchers an overview of what work has been carried out in the domain, as well as potential gaps and opportunities that still exist. Read More


Playing the game of heads or tails in zero gravity demonstrates that there exists a contextual "measurement" in classical mechanics. When the coin is flipped, its orientation is a continuous variable. However, the "measurement" that occurs when the coin is caught by clapping two hands together gives a discrete value (heads or tails) that depends on the context (orientation of the hands). Read More


Developing critical thinking skills is a common goal of an undergraduate physics curriculum. How do students make sense of evidence and what do they do with it? In this study, we evaluated students' critical thinking behaviors through their written notebooks in an introductory physics laboratory course. We compared student behaviors in the Structured Quantitative Inquiry Labs (SQILabs) curriculum to a control group and evaluated the fragility of these behaviors through procedural cueing. Read More


Identifying and understanding student difficulties with physics content in a wide variety of topical areas is an active research area within the PER community. In many cases, physics topics appear multiple times in different contexts across the undergraduate physics curriculum. As these common topics reappear, student difficulties can perpetuate from one context to the next, or new difficulties can emerge as students encounter new physical contexts. Read More


ALICE (Adaptive Learning for Interdisciplinary Collaborative Environments) is an open-source web based adaptive learning system designed for interdisciplinary instruction. ALICE has the potential to transform education by empowering transdisciplinary knowledge acquisition. This is particularly important in fields that accept newcomers with diverse scholastic backgrounds, e. Read More


A simple circuit consisting of 4 low noise operational amplifiers with voltage noise lower than $1~\mathrm{nV}/\sqrt{\mathrm{Hz}}$ and one four-quadrant multiplier with full scale accuracy 0.5\% gives the possibility to determine the fundamental constants $q_\textrm{e}$ and $k_\textrm{B}$ with an accuracy better than 5\%. The Boltzmann constant is determined by measurement of thermally averaged square of the voltage of a capacitor and also by the spectral density of thermal noise of resistors. Read More


This paper introduces a new spreadsheet tool for adoption by high school or college level physics teachers who use common assessments in a pre-instruction/post-instruction mode to diagnose student learning and teaching effectiveness. The spreadsheet creates a simple matrix that identifies the percentage of students who select each possible pre-/post-test answer combination on each question of the diagnostic exam. Leveraging analysis of the quality of the incorrect answer choices, one can order the answer choices from worst to best (i. Read More


Education is increasingly being framed by a competence mindset; the value of knowledge lies much more in competence performativity and innovation than in simply knowing. Reaching such competency in areas such as astronomy and physics has long been known to be challenging. The movement from everyday conceptions of the world around us to a disciplinary interpretation is fraught with pitfalls and problems. Read More


While Newtonian gravity is an adequate model for current geophysical exploration, Einsteinian gravity, based on the connection between free fall and warped time, has superseded Newtonian gravity as our best understanding of the universe. Einsteinian gravity is fundamental to GPS navigation and is a useful tool for geodesy. The Einstein-First Project is pioneering new curriculum material that seeks to teach students, from ages 11 upwards, the Einsteinian paradigm for gravity. Read More


A smartphone fluorimeter capable of time-based fluorescence intensity measurements at various temperatures is reported. Excitation is provided by an integrated UV LED (370 nm) and detection obtained using the in-built CMOS camera. A Peltier is integrated to allow measurements of the intensity over T = 10 to 40 C with a maximum temperature resolution of DELTA T ~ 0. Read More


Score reliability is necessary for establishing a validity argument for an instrument, and is therefore highly important to investigate. Depending on the proposed instrument use and score interpretations, differing degrees of precision in measurement or reliability are required. Researchers sometimes fail to take a critical stance when investigating this important measurement property, and default to accepted values of commonly known measures. Read More


Students face diverse pathways as they journey through undergraduate study. The analysis of student course records can untangle common patterns in course progression, and identify group trends in student outcomes. The current work examines the relationship between gender and undergraduate physics study, using course records from over nine thousand students who enrolled in physics at the University of Auckland, spanning a six year period. Read More


Quarks can be represented on the faces of the 3x3 Rubik's cube with the help of a symbolic representation of quarks and anti-quarks, that was delevoped originally for a deck of elementary particle cards, called Quark Matter Card Game. Cubing the cards leads to a model of the nearly perfect fluid of Quark Matter on Rubik's cube, or Qbe, which can be utilized to provide hands-on experience with the high entropy density, overall color neutrality and net baryon free, nearly perfect fluid nature of Quark Matter. Read More


We present a fast, simple method for automated data acquisition and visualization of sound directivity, made convenient and accessible via a smartphone app, "Polar Pattern Plotter." The app synchronizes measurements of sound volume with the phone's angular orientation obtained from either compass, gyroscope or accelerometer sensors and produces a graph and exportable data file. It is generalizable to various sound sources and receivers via the use of an input-jack-adaptor to supplant the smartphone's (omnidirectional) microphone. Read More


We establish an instructive experiment to investigate the minimum time curve traveled by a small billiard ball rolling in a grooved track under gravity. Our intention is to popularize the concept of \textit{minimum time curve} anew, and to propose it as a feasible physics experiment both for freshmen and sophomore classes. We observed that even the non-physics major students did enjoy such a cycloid experiment. Read More


Contemporary debates on "open science" mostly focus on the pub- lic accessibility of the products of scientific and academic work. In contrast, this paper presents arguments for "opening" the ongoing work of science. That is, this paper is an invitation to rethink the university with an eye toward engaging the public in the dynamic, conceptual and representational work involved in creating scientific knowledge. Read More


The power of robotic telescopes to transform science education has been voiced by multiple sources, since the 1980s. Since then, much technical progress has been made in robotic telescope provision to end users via a variety of different approaches. The educational transformation hoped for by the provision of this technology has, so far, yet to be achieved on a scale matching the technical advancements. Read More


We demonstrate how students' use of modeling can be examined and assessed using student notebooks collected from an upper-division electronics lab course. The use of models is a ubiquitous practice in undergraduate physics education, but the process of constructing, testing, and refining these models is much less common. We focus our attention on a lab course that has been transformed to engage students in this modeling process during lab activities. Read More


Astronomers measure cosmic distances to objects beyond our own galaxy using standard candles: objects of known intrinsic brightness, whose apparent brightnesses in the sky are then taken as an indication of their distances from the observer. In this activity, we use street lights and a digital camera to explore the method of standard candles as well as some of its limitations and possible sources of error. Read More


In quantum mechanics, the operator representing the composition of multiple, non-parallel displacements of a system's state in phase space differs from the product of the individual displacement operators by a phase factor. This composition phase is often either dismissed as unmeasurable or attributed to the nonzero commutator between quantum position and momentum operators, a fairly mathematical explanation that may leave some seeking more physical insight into why and when this phase should arise. We discuss the origins of the displacement operator's form and composition phase in classical wave and particle mechanics. Read More


One way to foster a supportive culture in physics departments is for instructors to provide students with personal attention regarding their academic difficulties. To this end, we have developed the Guided Reflection Form (GRF), an online tool that facilitates student reflections and personalized instructor responses. In the present work, we report on the experiences and practices of two instructors who used the GRF in an introductory physics lab course. Read More


The number of students who travel abroad to study or are enrolled in a distance learning program outside their home country is growing. According to UNESCO, such students are called internationally mobile students (IMSs) and 5 destination countries accounted for almost 50% of IMSs: United States (18%), United Kingdom (11%), France (7%), Australia (6%), and Germany (5%). Internationalisation of the higher education has created the so-called borderless university, providing better opportunities for learning and increases the human and social sustainability. Read More


Transfer of learning is an important objective of education. However, students usually have difficulties in solving physics transfer tasks even after having solved similar problems previously. We investigated if instruction provided using videos containing detailed explanations of previously solved problems will improve students' performance in tackling near and far transfer tasks. Read More


The Doppler effect is a shift in the frequency of waves emitted from an object moving relative to the observer. By observing and analysing the Doppler shift in electromagnetic waves from astronomical objects, astronomers gain greater insight into the structure and operation of our universe. In this paper, a simple technique is described for teaching the basics of the Doppler effect to undergraduate astrophysics students using acoustic waves. Read More


Current investigations into pedagogical goals of introductory algebra-based physics students at the University of Central Arkansas, by learning orientation towards an in-class metacognitive group problem solving task, seek to determine possible relationships with attitudinal shifts and course performance. Students thus far have been untreated with known group-based learning pedagogies, so as to establish trends of common group habits, and ultimately to properly inform implementation of group-based pedagogies in reaction to these trends. However, students' group dynamics and learning orientations prove difficult to map to group-based measurements; an estimate of group learning orientation and preferred working group dynamic is here explored as a potential means of interpreting students' use of problem solving strategies. Read More


The european CanSat competition is a funny way to understand physics. My students used low budget sensors and data analysis testing a model for temperature and humidity in low troposphere. Read More


Wiedemann-Franz law is a prediction of electronic theory of electric and thermal conductivity in metals, which states that a Lorenz ratio $L=\kappa/(\sigma T)$, where $\kappa$ is a thermal conductivity, $\sigma$ --- electric conductivity and $T$ --- absolute temperature, is a universal constant in certain cases. We present here a simple experimental setup to verify this prediction in a teaching experiment. Read More


Evidence-based teaching is based upon a model of learning in which assessment plays a central role. Read More


We use a framework of socially mediated metacognition to explore, in detail, the process of student decision-making while troubleshooting circuits in a laboratory setting. Troubleshooting is an open-ended, recursive problem-solving task that is often an implicit goal of instruction in upper-division laboratory courses in physics. Metacognitive regulation is know to play a key role in the election of appropriate strategies in a variety of problem-solving tasks. Read More


Incorporating computer programming exercises in introductory physics is a delicate task that involves a number of choices that may have a strong affect on student learning. We present an approach that speaks to a number of common concerns that arise when using programming exercises in introductory physics classes where most students are absolute beginner programmers. These students need an approach that is (1) simple, involving 75 lines of code or substantially fewer, (2) easy to use, with browser-based coding tools, (3) interactive, with a high frame rate to give a video- game like feel, (4) step-by-step with the ability to interact with intermediate stages of the "correct" program and (5) thoughtfully integrated into the physics curriculum, for example, by illustrating velocity and acceleration vectors throughout. Read More


This study investigates differences in student responses to in-class and online administrations of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM), and the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS). Close to 700 physics students from 12 sections of three different courses were instructed to complete the concept inventory relevant to their course, either the FCI or CSEM, and the CLASS. Each student was randomly assigned to take one of the surveys in class and the other survey online using the LA Supported Student Outcomes (LASSO) system hosted by the Learning Assistant Alliance (LAA). Read More


Formally investigating the sources of students' difficulties around specific subjects is crucial for developing appropriate strategies to help students. We have been studying difficulties in understanding magnetism encountered by students in the calculus-based introductory physics courses. A majority of these students are engineering majors. Read More


This study presents a review of the current state of research on teaching quantum mechanics in secondary and lower undergraduate education. A conceptual approach to quantum mechanics is being implemented in more and more introductory physics courses around the world. Because of the differences between the conceptual nature of quantum mechanics and classical physics, research on misconceptions, testing, and teaching strategies for introductory quantum mechanics is needed. Read More


In this case study, we investigated the effectiveness of peer interaction on responses to in-class clicker questions in an upper-level quantum mechanics course. We analyzed student performance on clicker questions answered individually and then again after interaction with peers. We also analyzed student performance by topic. Read More


Physics graduate teaching assistants (TAs) are often responsible for grading. Physics education research suggests that grading practices that place the burden of proof for explicating the problem solving process on students can help them develop problem solving skills and learn physics. However, TAs may not have developed effective grading practices and may grade student solutions in introductory and advanced courses differently. Read More


Explication and reflection on expert vs. novice considerations within the problem-solving process characterize a cognitive apprenticeship approach for the development of expert-like problem solving practices. In the context of grading, a cognitive apprenticeship approach requires that instructors place the burden of proof on students, namely, that they require explanations of reasoning and explication of problem-solving processes. Read More


Dirac notation is used commonly in quantum mechanics. However, many upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in physics have difficulties with representations of quantum operators corresponding to observables especially when using Dirac notation. To investigate these difficulties, we administered free-response and multiple-choice questions and conducted individual interviews with students in advanced quantum mechanics courses. Read More


The expectation value of an observable is an important concept in quantum mechanics. However, upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in physics have both conceptual and procedural difficulties when determining the expectation value of physical observables, especially when using Dirac notation. To investigate these difficulties, we administered free-response and multiple-choice questions and conducted individual interviews with students. Read More