Physics - Physics Education Publications (50)


Physics - Physics Education Publications

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

SAIL (System for Adaptive Interest-based Learning) is an open-source web based adaptive learning system designed for interdisciplinary instruction. SAIL-SB has the potential to transform education by empowering transdisciplinary knowledge acquisition. This is particularly important in fields that accepts 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

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