Physics - Physics Education Publications (50)

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Physics - Physics Education Publications

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


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


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