Physics - Physics Education Publications (50)

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Physics - Physics Education Publications

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


We discuss an investigation of student difficulties with degenerate perturbation theory (DPT) carried out in advanced quantum mechanics courses by administering free-response and multiple-choice questions and conducting individual interviews with students. We find that students share many common difficulties related to this topic. We used the difficulties found via research as resources to develop and evaluate a Quantum Interactive Learning Tutorial (QuILT) which strives to help students develop a functional understanding of DPT. Read More


I had the marvelous good fortune to be Ken Wilson's graduate student at the Physics Department, Cornell University, from 1972 to 1976. In this article, I present some recollections of how this came about, my interactions with Ken, and Cornell during this period; and acknowledge my debt to Ken, and to John Wilkins and Michael Fisher, who I was privileged to have as my main mentors at Cornell. I end with some thoughts on the challenges of reforming education, a subject that was one of Ken's major preoccupations in the second half of his professional life. Read More


A popular demonstration experiment in optics uses a round-bottom flask filled with water to project a circular rainbow on a screen with a hole through which the flask is illuminated. We show how the vessel's wall shifts the second-order and first-order bows towards each other and consequentially narrows down Alexander's dark band. We address the challenge this introduces in producing Alexander's dark band, and explain the importance of a sufficient distance of the flask to the screen. Read More


A stand-alone App has been developed, focused on obtaining information about relevant engineering properties of magnetic levitation systems. Our modelling toolkit provides real time simulations of 2D magneto-mechanical quantities for Superconductor/Permanent Magnet structures. The source code is open and may be customized for a variety of configurations. Read More


There is consistent and growing evidence that physics instruction disproportionately harms female students' self-efficacy, their beliefs about their ability to learn and do physics. This harm is problematic because self-efficacy supports student learning and persistence. Nissen and Shemwell (PhysRevPER, 12, 2016) investigated this harm using an in-the-moment measure of student's self-efficacy states, which are dynamic judgments of one's ability to succeed in the activity at hand. Read More


Measuring student learning is a complicated but necessary task for understanding the effectiveness of instruction and issues of equity in college STEM courses. Our investigation focused on the implications on claims about student learning that result from choosing between one of two commonly used methods for analyzing shifts in concept inventories. The methods are: Hake's gain (g), which is the most common method used in physics education research and other discipline based education research fields, and Cohen's d, which is broadly used in education research and many other fields. Read More


Over the past several years, the authors have served as teachers, qualified scientists, mentors, and/or parents on dozens of science projects. These projects ranged from elementary school projects that can be completed in a weekend to high school and college freshmen projects that take a semester or year to complete and yield published scholarly papers and/or compete at the highest national and international levels. This article describes what we have observed to be important to success. Read More


In our daily lives, we observe objects sinking, floating, or rising when immersed in a fluid. The Archimedes principle, which explains an object's behavior when immersed in a fluid, is important in fluid mechanics; however, it is a relatively complex concept for middle school students to grasp, as they often harbor misconceptions. To initiate conceptual change among students regarding the misconception "heavy objects sink and light objects float," I created a project during which students build a stable submarine that uses fluid transfers to move up, down, and forward while carrying a load. Read More


Simulation of the so-called monatomic and diatomic chains by the computer program CHAINPLOT is described. The simulation provides useful teaching material for undergraduate condensed matter physics lecture courses, and has revealed that for the last 63 years a fundamental description of the actual atomic motions has been copied in the literature, despite being incorrect or at least misleading.. Read More


This paper reviews the status of women in science, physics in particular, in Cyprus. We describe the development of physics in the country, focusing on the contributions and participation of women. We present statistical data for the last several years, reviewing the percentage of women who are pursuing physics as a subject of study or as a profession. Read More


Quark Wars is an all-new, adventure style game. We recommended playing it outdoors. Quark Wars is modeled upon the outdoor game called Hungarian Number War, with notable influence from Star Wars, the American epic space saga. Read More


Classes started in the newly established Physics Department of Calcutta University Science College in 1916. Raman, Bose and Saha were three young members of the small physics faculty consisting of barely half a dozen faculty members. Within about one decade, three extraordinary discoveries came from these young men---Saha ionization equation in 1920, Bose statistics in 1924, Raman effect in 1928. Read More


Ci\^ensa\c{c}\~ao, an open online repository for hands-on experiments, has been developed to convince teachers in Latin America that science is best experienced first hand. Permitting students to experiment autonomously in small groups can be a challenging endeavour for educators in these countries. We analyse the reasons that make teachers hesitate to apply hands-on experiments in class, and discuss how Ci\^ensa\c{c}\~ao was implemented to overcome these obstacles. Read More


Even though quantum mechanics has existed for almost 100 years, questions concerning the foundation and interpretation of the theory still remain. These issues have gathered more attention in recent years, but does this mean that physicists are more aware of foundational issues concerning quantum mechanics? A survey was sent out to 1234 physicists affiliated to 8 different universities. 149 responded to the questions, which both concerned foundational issues related to quantum mechanics, specifically, as well as questions concerning interpretations of physical theories in general. Read More


In Afghanistan, High school graduates, to continue higher education, need to pass the National University Entrance Exam (Kankor). Kankor is very important and requires further research as it is used as the only means to identify the participant's competence and skills which leads to a qualified higher education and manpower, employment opportunities, allocation of human capital in appropriate fields of study, and leading to a more specialized labor force in the long run. Having a better picture of Kankor in Afghanistan is essential before employing educational data mining techniques and other social and pedagogical approaches to support the students and the educational institutions. Read More


The use of lab notebooks for scientific documentation is a ubiquitous part of physics research. However, it is common for undergraduate physics laboratory courses not to emphasize the development of these documentation skills, despite the fact that these lab courses are some of the earliest opportunities for students to start engaging in this practice. One potential impediment to the inclusion of explicit documentation training is that it may be unclear to instructors what constitutes "best practices" and how those best practices can be incorporated into the lab class environment. Read More


Homework in introductory physics represents an important part of a student's learning experience; therefore choosing the manner in which homework is presented merits investigation. We performed three rounds of clinical trials comparing the effects of mastery-style homework vs traditional-style homework with students in both algebra-based and calculus-based introductory mechanics. Results indicate a benefit from mastery-style over traditional-style homework, principally for weaker students who are less familiar with the material being covered and on questions that are nearer transfer to the study materials. Read More


Academics often attempt to analyze problems in pedagogy on the basis of anecdotes when they should be using an evidence based, data driven approach. This paper presents a relatively simple technique for analyzing the relative efficacy of different types of questions when it comes to judging the conceptual understanding of students. The technique is illustrated using a case-study in which a carefully constructed multi-part question (with binary, descriptive, and computational parts) was given to a group of students. Read More


The Escaramujo Project was a series of eight hands-on laboratory courses on High Energy Physics and Astroparticle Instrumentation, in Latinamerican Institutions. The Physicist Federico Izraelevitch traveled on a van with his wife and dogs from Chicago to Buenos Aires teaching the courses. The sessions took place at Institutions in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia at an advanced undergraduate and graduate level. Read More


We report an experimental verification of conformal mapping with kitchen aluminum foil. This experiment can be reproduced in any laboratory by undergraduate students and it is therefore an ideal experiment to introduce the concept of conformal mapping. The original problem was the distribution of the electric potential in a very long plate. Read More


We discuss how the likely 2018 redefinition of the SI system of units might affect the ability of students to understand the link between the units and the new system. The likely redefinition will no longer define a set of base units, but rather a set of constants of nature, such as the speed of light c and a particular hyperfine splitting in Cs $\Delta\nu(^{133}$Cs)$_{hfs}$. We point out that this list of constants need not be the only way to introduce students to the subject, either in class or in textbooks. Read More


With this study we tried to investigate if male and female students have a different perception of scientific careers. At the end, we would like to be able to provide hints on how to intervene to correct the path that seems to naturally bring male students towards STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math) and reject female students from them. Read More


We propose a laboratory experience aimed at undergraduate physics students to understand the main features of the photoelectric effect and to perform a measurement of the ratio h/e, where h is the Planck's constant and e is the electron charge. The experience is based on the method developed by Millikan for his measurements on the photoelectric effect in the years from 1912 to 1915. The experimental setup consists of a photomultiplier tube (PMT) equipped with a voltage divider properly modified to set variable retarding potentials between the photocathode and the first dynode, and a set of LEDs emitting at different wavelengths. Read More


We present a method to study engagement level uniformity in a class of students. We validate our method by comparing two semesters taught using different methods in a physics and mathematics course. The first semester used conventional methods while the second semester used graphic spreadsheets-based laboratories and homework before the introduction of formal methods. Read More


We proposes a battery-resistor circuit to aid introductory laboratory students visualize concepts of experimental measurement uncertainty, sums of uncertainties and uncertainty of the mean value. In the model presented the uncertainty or noise can be thought of as noise in a loudspeaker, making the analogy simple to understand. The mathematics used is simple, requires no knowledge of statistics and provides correct expressions. Read More


Physics laboratory courses have been generally acknowledged as an important component of the undergraduate curriculum, particularly with respect to developing students' interest in, and understanding of, experimental physics. There are a number of possible learning goals for these courses including reinforcing physics concepts, developing laboratory skills, and promoting expert-like beliefs about the nature of experimental physics. However, there is little consensus among instructors and researchers interested in the laboratory learning environment as to relative importance of these various learning goals. Read More


The Mathematization project investigates students' use of mathematical tools across the undergraduate physics curriculum. As a part of this project, we look at intermediate mechanics students' written homework solutions to understand how they use those tools in approaching traditional mechanics problems. We use a modified version of the ACER framework to analyze students' solutions and to identify patterns of mathematical skills used on traditional problems. Read More


We investigate the difference in persistence between male and female students while taking a physics course. We collected the data from three consecutive workshops on various topics of physics. After plotting the number of participations against the number of days attended, we calculate the decay rates for both male and female students on each workshop and compared them on a bar diagram. Read More


Group work is becoming increasingly common in introductory physics classrooms. Understanding how students engage in these group learning environments is important for designing and facilitating productive learning opportunities for students. We conducted a study in which we collected video of groups of students working on conceptual electricity and magnetism problems in an introductory physics course. Read More


Increasing student retention (successfully finishing a particular course) and persistence (continuing through the major area of study) is currently a major challenge for universities. While students' academic and social integration into an institution seems to be vital for student retention, research into the effect of interpersonal interactions is rare. We use the network analysis approach to investigate academic and social experiences of students in the classroom. Read More


In this paper, we introduce 'public computation' as a genre of learning environments that can be used to radically broaden public participation in authentic, computation-enabled STEM disciplinary practices. Our paradigmatic approach utilizes open source software designed for professional scientists, engineers and digital artists, and situates them in an undiluted form, alongside live and archived expert support, in a public space. We present a case study of DigiPlay, a prototypical public computation space we designed at the University of Calgary, where users can interact directly with scientific simulations as well as the underlying open source code using an array of massive multi- touch screens. Read More


It is now widely believed that research should be an essential and integral part of under-graduate studies. In recent years there has been a conscious effort to bring research opportunities to the physics under-graduates in India. We argue that the need for the hour is a methodical evaluation of the existing under-graduate research programs for their effectiveness in preparing the students for a career in physics. Read More


The authors use an action research (AR) approach in a collegiate studio physics class to investigate the power of partnerships via conferences as they relate to issues of establishing a student/mentor rapport, empowering students to reduce inequity, and the successes and barriers to hearing students' voices. The graduate teaching assistant (TA, Author 1) conducted one-on-one conferences with 29 students, elicited student opinions about the progress of the course, and talked with faculty, TAs, and an undergraduate supplemental instructor for other sections of the course. At the end of the semester, the students reported increased knowledge of the TA as a person and as an instructor, and vice versa. Read More


We study 100 images of early LHC collisions that were recorded by the ATLAS experiment and made public for outreach purposes, and extract the charged particle multiplicity as a function of momentum for proton-proton collisions at sqrt(s) = 7 TeV. As the collisions we study have already been pre-processed by the ATLAS Collaboration, the tracks are visible, but are available to the public only in the form of low-resolution bitmaps. We employ two separate image processing methods, one based on the industry-standard OpenCV library and C++, another based on self-developed algorithms in Python. Read More


Ideograms (symbols that represent a word or idea) have great communicative value. They refer to concepts in a simple manner, easing the understanding of related ideas. Moreover, ideograms can simplify the often cumbersome notation used in the fields of Physics and physical Chemistry. Read More


We present a new teaching and outreach activity based around the construction of a three-dimensional chart of isotopes using LEGO$^{\circledR}$ bricks. The activity, \emph{Binding Blocks}, demonstrates nuclear and astrophysical processes through a seven-meter chart of all nuclear isotopes, built from over 26,000 LEGO$^{\circledR}$ bricks. It integrates A-level and GCSE curricula across areas of nuclear physics, astrophysics, and chemistry, including: nuclear decays (through the colours in the chart); nuclear binding energy (through tower heights); production of chemical elements in the cosmos; fusion processes in stars and fusion energy on Earth; as well as links to medical physics, particularly diagnostics and radiotherapy. Read More