For the LA seminar class on student attitudes about and approaches toward science learning , I ended up color-coding the statements from the CLASS, according to expert concensus: Green for agree, red for disagree, and black for no concensus. I didn’t tell them what the colors meant as they sorted them. To a really good measure, the favorable statements ended up being attributed to Ellen’s approach and the unfavorable responses attributed to Liza’s approach. This is what I expected would happen, and when I revealed what colors meant, it gave us the opportunity to talk about what we’d done and found in a new light.
Next time, I’ll have students jot down their explanations directly on sheets, and then have the class explore the wall, noting any that they think should/could be placed differently. Focus conversation around those. Students had really thoughtful explanations for why both would agree to certain statements, for different reasons. While the small group conversations were rich, the whole class was a little flat, and I suspect that getting a chance to explore the wall would enrich it.
All and all it was a good lesson that should be even better with some minor tweaks.
A lesson I’m teaching tomorrow for my LA seminar goes like this:
I. For homework, students will have already read and wrote a 1-2 page reflection: Hammer, D. (1989). Two approaches to learning physics. The Physics Teacher, 664-670.
2. At the start of class, students will start taking the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey. [8-12 minutes] Some time will be allotted for pairs to talk about any items, especially ones they answered differently. [12-8 minutes]
3. I have printed off large index cards with each of the survey statements. Groups will be given 8-10 of the survey statements and have to decide, how two students from the reading would respond to statement–would “Liza” be likely to agree to this statement, or “Ellen”, or both, or neither? [20-25 minutes]
4. For whole-class discussion, a large Venn Diagram will have been made on the white board is for groups to place their choices and to give reasons for why. Why do you think Ellen agree but not Liza? Why do you think both of them would agree? Etc. The hope here is that opportunities will arise to dig into each of these approach–both in terms of the reading and our own personal experiences. [20-25 minutes]
[I need to think through a little more clearly the logistics of how I want this to unfold]
5. I’m not committed to getting through all 41 statements (and it wouldn’t pay off), so with about 25 minutes remaining, I want to shifting the conversation to two questions [10-15 minutes]
(1) What are the upsides and downsides to approaching physics either like Ellen and Liza? (In terms of learning? Enjoyment? Doing well in school?)
(2) What are the factors that influence how students choose to approach physics?
[I need to think through this transition, and any need to go back to small groups, etc.]
6. Lastly, I want to just briefly share some of the research results from the CLASS [5-10 minutes]:
(1) Most physics courses negatively impact students attitudes, although there are some exceptions
(2) Student attitudes /approach impact their learning as measure by instruments such as FCI.
Note 1: Somewhere in here I want students to “score” their survey… or at least know what the expert responses are. I might do this just after they take it, but I could also have them identify the expert response for their index cards only, lastly, I could have them return to the surveys to score themselves just before I share results]… I’m learning toward given that information on the index cards, so that can be part of the conversation when students talk about why/where they placed their index card.
Note 2: I worry somewhat about conflating David’s paper (and research) with the CLASS instrument (and research). They aren’t driving at exactly the same thing, but they are related enough, and I think they offer an opportunity for us to dig deeper into both. Sometimes, papers are worth digging into by themselves, but I’m finding it useful to access the ideas in papers by using other ideas/tools as levers– in this case,the CLASS is a tool that gives us leverage on the paper.
Note 3: I’ve had a lot of success in classes using whiteboard space this way. It makes thinking public during whole class discussion in a way that nicely structures turn-taking, but also splits the task up spatially and temporally. It’s also an opportunity to get up, move around, etc.
I always post these, because they help me to process when I write them, but it’s also interesting to share. I’ve been sharing these ever since I started, so I figured I keep it up.
What do we do in class that is helpful for your learning? Why specifically do you think it is helpful?
– The group work is helpful because it provides the input and collection of ideas, by solving the problems together.
– Whiteboard exercises and emphasis on showing all work and graphs. Good tool for working together and talking through each and every step. Coming around and questioning our methods and helping us understand why. The emphasis on showing work is great and help you learn more solidly. Before I used to zoom right to the answer, but I know I write out every formula, process, and graph and it has spilled over into my other classes, improving my grades.
– Test example questions are helpful because they give a clear view of what to expect.
– For me, having to work out problems step by step helps me because I can go home and have those guidelines to do HW. This is helpful b/c I have a hard time memorizing things quickly. The labs are helpful because I learn things better by doing hands on activities than from reading.
– Thorough explanations are good, needless to say.
– The amount of practice each class session we get. Working as a group helps other to catch up.
– Working out and explaining problems on the board, because it allows one to see if they actually understand the problem and if not they see where they don’t understand and can ask questions.
– Group work is good way that helps me a lot in this class. I always ask them when I face a problem I don’t understand and they help me out. It seems to me that the problems you give us to work are helpful.
– I don’t like group work, however I find it aids the learning process greatly. Group works puts everyone in that group in a teaching role at some point, which is a better way to learn something.
– Whiteboard problems, worksheets, reading quizzes. All these provide repetition, Practice makes perfect. With the LAs on Fridays we also have the ability to work problems with most of our questions answered.
– The most helpful thing is coloring the different quantities different colors.I
– Not only do we work problems on the board while you guide us, we also work in groups. This helps because any questions I am stuck on, someone who is learning something new can help me understand how they did it. All of the extra practice problems and being able to apply physics to real life in labs helpme
– Working in groups and whiteboard problems, we support each other and drawing is fun
– Working together for about 45 minutes is so helpful, save in time plus more and more things to learn from the group.
– Hands on Labs and working in groups. This is helpful because we help each other learn.
– Solving a lot of problems is one of the most helpful things. Also,the LAs who come to class to help on Fridays are so helpful.
– Group work seems to be helpful because you can get other people’s ways of solving problems. With different ideas, I think that is a helpful way for me to learn.
– Having problems worked out with the group is beneficial to me because if I don’t understand the problem or mess up one of the steps, I can turn and talk to one of them to figure what I did wrong.
– Working in groups is nice. Not just doing lab after lab as well, LA, time, and worksheets change the pace. I also think that the amount of work given is helpful.
– Working out problems on whiteboards are helpful, because it keeps the group on the same page and doesn’t let one be ahead of the everyone else of behind.
– When you go through problems step by step and then allow us to go back to our desk (to try to do it on our own). It allows us to break down a long problems into more “simple”steps.
– I enjoy working on practice problems in class, because it helps understand what different parts of the problems are and it’s more practice.
–Working in groups is helpful because it’s like a system of checks and balances.
– Group work, whiteboard problems, labs, etc.
– Worksheets help me because they give me problems to work in class, however, they also give me problems to work outside of class.
– The most helpful is when the instructor starts explaining a problem and then he gives us a similar problems.
– I think when all of us roll up to the board, it’s very engaging.
What do we do in class that is NOT helpful for your learning? Why specifically do you think it is unhelpful?
– Nothing specifically I can think of… but a slower pace of problem-solving would be more effective. I think sometimes we are rushing.
– Everything is helpful. The only less-helpful thing is getting around the front board to watch your work a problem. I already understand most of the material, but I can see how it is needed in this class and will be helpful for me in the future.
–Color coding problems. I already have to remember how to solve the problem. I feel that trying to remember what each color means is just added stress.
–I am having a hard time in my new group–they are catching on quicker than I am and they rush through the problem. When I ask for clarification, the problem is explained, but too quickly. I felt like my first group worked much more as a team than my current group.
– Can’t think of anything.
– I cannot think of anything
– Whiteboarding and color-coding. I can’t work with others on the test, and I can’t use color pencils on the test, so it it seems like a waste of time and resources. I suggest everyone work by themselves.
–Everything we do in this class related to the main idea, so nothing is unhelpful.
– I feel like my first group had a great dynamic, and I can understand how others might not want to stay in their first group. I felt so comfortable with my first group, which for me helps the learning process.
– Sometimes we go at too fast of a pace than I can handle. I know we have a schedule that is set, but sometimes it’s hard to grasp certain concepts in the designated time.
– I find some of the labs to be less helpful, because the problems tend to explain themselves. But I guess I know some people learn more through actions and visualizations. So I guess they are helpful.
– Everything we do is helpful in some way.
– Switching groups. I can work easier with my first group, because I was accustomed to their way of thinking and working. That made for a good learning environment.
– We should have a quiz toward the end of class, so we can be more confident and have an indication of what we learned that day, or if there is still progress to be made.
– Working in groups can also not be helpful a times, because we don’t always work at the same pace. Some could work faster and sometimes people do not feel like slowing down.
– Counting off a lot of points on labs is not helpful.
– Certain days, we rush through topics because we have too many activities to do. We buzz on from one thing to the next, and sometimes I hardly understood the first. Maybe we could only do one thing at a time.
– Everything that we have to do in lab in one class is too much to get finished before the end of class.
– Mandatory group changes. I had a real solid and helpful group at the beginning.
– Always doing group work is not helpful, because when I get home by myself, there is not one to get feedback. I know it’s my responsibility to work independently outside of class, but I feel group work is making me too dependent on others.
– Working in groups all the time. Sometimes my group understand something better than I do and finishes the work before I even know what’s going on.
– Nothing is unhelpful.
– I can’t think of anything.
– Nothing really.
– Sometimes working in groups is confusing. This can be unhelpful when I get home and have to work alone.
– Nothing is unhelpful, but we could work in groups a little less, because I feel I just want to finish the problem instead of understand everything.
Is there anything you want to tell me? Something that’s been on your mind?
– Slow down a little sometimes?
– I am enjoying your class and it’s challenging me.
– It helps me when I am given deep, complete explanations as to “Why?” Once I understand something intimately, I know it. If we do not understand the murky depths, how could we hope to venture?
– This is the best lab I’ve had for a long time.
– I like the LAs, because I’ve appreciated having women in the classroom to teach us, they help keep our attention on topic a little more.
– I wish we had more coffee. Never ending coffee. This 8:00 AM business is crazy. Coffee.
– As of now, things are going well.
– This class does a good job of teaching to different learning styles. I happen to be fond of math, so I tend to pick up the problem without the extra help, but I’m still enjoying the class even if it sometimes seems repetitive.
– I wish you had more office hours.
– You rock, Frank!.
– I understand why you grade labs the way you do, I just wish you didn’t.
– Everything seems to be OK. I do enjoy the content and challenge of this class.
– Nothing is on my mind about how this class could be different.
– Group changes. I enjoyed working with my friends. Reading quizzes should start 10 minutes later, to give grace to those who are trying to get here, but are having one of those days. We also need morning incentives, like coffee. Once a week? We need more than a lab activity to get us here on Fridays.
– Nope ;)
– Nope =)
– I wish we had more problems solving, because that’s what the test consisted of.
– I’m confused about LA activities versus Lab activities, so I sometimes get the reading quiz questions wrong when it’s about what we are doing today.
This semester I am back to teaching first-semester physics. One thing I have noticed about myself this year is how much more direct I am with students about my expectations for collaborating in groups and for the quality /care that should go into whiteboards.
Beyond just communicating expectations more explicitly, I am assessing more and intervening as necessary. I have noticed myself deploying three different kinds of interventions:
– Discussing with students that collaborating over intellectual work is a skill that one develops with practice and that it’s a specific goal I have for them. In these conversations, I’m not only reiterating expectations and communicating that I am serious but I am trying to situate it within a growth mindset. I try to be sympathetic but firm with students here. When I see them making efforts or progress here, I specifically let them know they what I am seeing.
– Modeling and providing specific talk moves. There is a range here, but a common one I model and give them is simply for one person to verbalize their thinking and then someone else has to either affirm (agree) and say why, or ask a question back about what they said, or disagree and give reasons. Often times I do this after I’ve helped facilitate such a dialogue. For example, I’ll ask one student to explain something and then reflect that back to the group. Another student agrees and I probe them to say why. Then I’ll recap what happened with group, pointing out the good contributions that each made, and talk about how they could have that same conversation without me.
– Making analogies to help students get in the right mindset for noticing each other’s bids for collaboration and being kind to reciprocate. The two I’ve been using are dancing and conversation with a friend. The friend analogy that has come up is when you are really trying to get something across to your friend and then all they say back is, “yeah” or “ok”, and you sort of feel like, “well they don’t even really care, or weren’t even listening.” We talk about how a good friend conveys they were listening and that they care by stating back the gist of what was said, and by perhaps affirming or acknowledging parts of the story. The dancing analogy has mostly been about how it takes more than one person to dance, and that both partners have to be attentive to each other to make it go smoothly. After this conversation, I might walk by a group and notice a student verbalize their thinking and no one looking up from their own work, and just say in passing, “Wyatt is asking someone to dance…”
Some students have told me that they are not talkative, implying that it’s a burden or just won’t happen. I realize that there are differences between introverts and extroverts, and a lot of our classrooms can favor extroverts. But I have introverted students who quietly and productively collaborate with each other, so… ?? What I’ve been telling students is that I’m not asking them to jabber jaw or to just be chatty. I’m asking them to practice the skill of talking as you engage in collaborative intellectual work. I negotiate with some groups about the balance between “think, then talk” vs “talk as thinking”. We’ve also talked about how sometimes you need to say, “hold on hold on, I need to think about this for a second.” So far, listening to students concerns, negotiating forms of engagement, while holding my ground, has gone well with students.
Overall, each day we’ve been making incremental progress, but yesterday seemed like a lot of groups passed a threshold, where they are naturally and enjoyably engaging in intellectual work with each other. I had a dozen students staying after class ended to continue working on physics problems, and the quality of work and collaboration made me think that these students could easily be mistaken for physics majors.
I’ll keep tending to the fire.
And I definitely have one group that is not clicking well. I’ll need to devote some time to observing them as they work.
And I need to build in some time where students have choices about how to work–by themselves, with others, on paper, on whiteboards, etc.
On the first day of my teaching of physics class, I asked students what questions / concerns they had about physics teaching and what they hoped to take away from this class.
Here is our list:
1. So far, I’ve been given frameworks for planning individual lessons (and maybe a sequence of lessons). How do I plan for meaningful instruction on time scales beyond a lesson? Like a whole course?
2. I’ve learned that I came out of introductory physics with much my conceptions inadequately addressed. How can I teach in ways that address students’ (mis)conceptions?
3. I know that explaining isn’t all there is too teaching, but there are many concepts in physics I feel inadequately prepared to explain, even to myself. How do I develop my repertoire of explanations of physics concepts for learners?
4. I’ve learned that I will likely teach physics at many different levels–physical science, freshman physics, honors physics, junior/senior physics, AP physics. How am I to adjust instruction and curriculum to all these different levels?
5. What determines the pace of instruction? How much time do you devote to specific topics? When is it time to move on?
6. Is it possible to teach effectively in this era of high stakes testing? Can you teach AP physics through inquiry and prepare them for the AP exam?
I’m glad I did this. Already students seem to be oriented to the class as potentially meaningful and relevant. They have a stake in shaping what we do and what issues our efforts speak to. I’ve left room in my plans to move in on their questions, but I know that we will ultimately address some of these much more than others.
I do plan on asking students to revisit these questions regularly during the semester, and also to add to and refine these questions.
Lastly, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts. Or if anyone feels passionate about one of these questions, I’d love to talk about having you talk with our class.
With circuits this year, I’ve been teaching a “solve for everything” approach that balances circuit reduction with reasoning about Kirchoff’s rules. First students reduce the circuit and then work to determine the current, potential differences, and power outputs of each device.
For example, on the student whiteboard below, they were supposed to find the power output at Resistor Three. I’ve been pushing for solving for the power input/output of everything, so they can check energy conservation.
I worried about teaching them to use the table, that maybe it would turn it into a mindless numbers game, but the organization actually allows students to spend energy on reasoning for how currents / potential differences should relate. It also just helps with the book-keeping so keeping track of what they know and don’t know easy. It also makes checking work easy. The first two columns should multiply to the third column by Ohm’s Law. And the 2nd and 3rd columns should multiply to the 4th column by the power relationship. A colleague of mine extended my table method to include all the equivalent resistors along the way as well.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with this approach. One tweak I would make would require them to write/diagram their reasoning about how the Kirchoff’s reasoning–either in algebra or using the diagrams.
I really enjoyed reading and thinking about this post: What Computing Education Research does that Engineering Ed and Physics Ed Research doesn’t
One of the claims put forth in the post is the Computing Education Research (CER) community seems to have more lively and stronger focus on broadening participation than either the Physics Education Research (PER) of Engineering Education Research (EER) communities. From that post:
“Carl [Wieman] said that gender diversity just wasn’t a priority in PER. I dug into the PER groups around the US. From what I could find, he’s right. Eric Mazur’s group has one paper on this issue, from 2006 (see here). I couldn’t find any at U. Washington or at Boulder. There probably is work on gender diversity in physics education research, but it certainly doesn’t stand out like the broadening participation in computing effort in the United States.”
I thought I would dig a little deeper, and do just a quick survey of all articles published in Physical Review–Special Topics in Physics Education Research, which touched upon gender, participation, or highlighted international research. I should note that the list below is based on titles only–I didn’t read the abstracts or the papers. While this isn’t a thorough analysis, it paints a slightly less bleak picture than one paper published almost a decade ago.
Note: I’m certainly not looking to pick a fight about PER vs. CER or EER. I feel much like the author of the post, who writes:
“I don’t have a deep bottom-line here… My exploration of EER and PER gave me a new appreciation that CER has something special. It’s not as big or established as EER or PER, but we’re collaborative, international, working on hard and important problems, and using a wide variety of methods, from in-classroom to laboratory studies. That’s pretty cool.”
The authors post has made me pause to think about our priorities and prodded me to dig a little deeper into the data to see what the situation is beyond just trusting Carl’s Wieman’s comment and a quick examination of just two research groups.
Note 2: I also added relevant presentations from most recent PER Conference.
Gender gap on concept inventories in physics: What is consistent, what is inconsistent, and what factors influence the gap? Adrian Madsen, Sarah B. McKagan, and Eleanor C. Sayre Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9
Comparative analysis of female physicists in the physical sciences: Motivation and background variables .Katherine P. Dabney and Robert H. Tai Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 10, 010104 (2014) – Published 3 February 2014
Female physicist doctoral experiences Katherine P. Dabney and Robert H. Tai. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9, 010115 (2013) – Published 10 April 2013
Factors that affect the physical science career interest of female students: Testing five common hypotheses. Zahra Hazari, Geoff Potvin, Robynne M. Lock, Florin Lung, Gerhard Sonnert, and Philip M. Sadler. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9, 020115 (2013) – Published 22 October 2013
Preliminary investigation of instructor effects on gender gap in introductory physics. Kimberley Kreutzer and Andrew Boudreaux. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 8, 010120 (2012) – Published 4 May 2012
Gender disparities in second-semester college physics: The incremental effects of a “smog of bias” Lauren E. Kost-Smith, Steven J. Pollock, and Noah D. Finkelstein. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 6, 020112 (2010) – Published 3 September 2010
Characterizing the gender gap in introductory physics Lauren E. Kost, Steven J. Pollock, and Noah D. Finkelstein. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010101 (2009) – Published 8 January 2009
Gender differences in the use of an online homework system in an introductory physics course Gerd Kortemeyer Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010107 (2009) – Published 26 May 2009
Reducing the gender gap in the physics classroom: How sufficient is interactive engagement? Steven J. Pollock, Noah D. Finkelstein, and Lauren E. Kost. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 010107 (2007) – Published 5 June 2007
How do they get here?: Paths into physics education research Ramón S. Barthelemy, Charles Henderson, and Megan L. Grunert. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9
Physics teachers’ perspectives on factors that affect urban physics participation and accessibility Angela M. Kelly. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9, 010122 (2013) – Published 19 June 2013
Educational trajectories of graduate students in physics education research . Ben Van Dusen, Ramón S. Barthelemy, and Charles Henderson. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 10, 020106 (2014) – Published 21 July 2014
Eric Brewe, Vashti Sawtelle, Laird H. Kramer, George E. O’Brien, Idaykis Rodriguez, and Priscilla Pamelá. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 6, 010106 (2010) – Published 20 May 2010
Secondary implementation of interactive engagement teaching techniques: Choices and challenges in a Gulf Arab context G. W. Hitt, A. F. Isakovic, O. Fawwaz, M. S. Bawa’aneh, N. El-Kork, S. Makkiyil, and I. A. Qattan. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res 10, 020123 – Published 6 October 2014
Introduction of interactive learning into French university physics classrooms Alexander L. Rudolph, Brahim Lamine, Michael Joyce, Hélène Vignolles, and David Consiglio. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 10, 010103 (2014) – Published 27 January 2014
Validating the Japanese translation of the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation and comparing performance levels of American and Japanese students Michi Ishimoto, Ronald K. Thornton, and David R. Sokoloff. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 10, 020114 (2014) – Published 19 August 2014
Effectiveness of Tutorials for Introductory Physics in Argentinean high schools J. Benegas and J. Sirur Flores. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 10, 010110 (2014) – Published 24 March 2014
Introducing Taiwanese undergraduate students to the nature of science through Nobel Prize stories Haim Eshach, Fu-Kwun Hwang, Hsin-Kai Wu, and Ying-Shao Hsu. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9, 010116 (2013) – Published 25 April 2013
Student effort expectations and their learning in first-year introductory physics: A case study in Thailand U. Wutchana and N. Emarat. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 7, 010111 (2011) – Published 24 June 2011
Validation study of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey at a Hispanic-serving institution Vashti Sawtelle, Eric Brewe, and Laird Kramer Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 023101 (2009) – Published 28 August 2009
Presentations at 2014 PER Conference:
Exposure to underrepresentation discussion: The impacts on women’s attitudes and identities by Geoff Potvin, Zahra Hazari, Robynne Lock
Female Students’ Persistence and Engagement in Physics: The Role of High School Experiences by Zahra Hazari, Eric Brewe, Theodore Hodapp, Renee Michelle Goertzen, Robynne M. Lock, Cheryl A. P. Cass
The Impacts of Instructor and Student Gender on Student Performance in Introductory Modeling Instruction Courses by Daryl McPadden, Eric Brewe.
The Long Term Impacts of Modeling Physics: The Performance of Men and Women in Follow-on Upper Level Physics Courses by Idaykis Rodriguez, Eric Brewe, Laird H. Kramer.
The Experiences of Women in Post Graduate Physics and Astronomy Programs: The Roles of Support, Career Goals, and Gendered Experiences by Ramon Barthelemy Melinda McCormick, Charles Henderson
Discussing Underrepresentation as a Means to Increasing Female Physics Identity by Robynne M. Lock , Zahra Hazari, Reganne Tompkins
Exploring the gender gap in one department’s algebra-based physics course by Twanelle Walker Majors, Paula V. Engelhardt, Steve J. Robinson
Race and Gender and Leaving STEM: Preliminary Results of The Roots of STEM Project by Melissa Dancy Elizabeth Stearns, Roslyn Mickelson, Stephanie Moller, Martha Bottia
I’m not sure what this mean, if anything yet, but that’s what I did this morning. Making this list doesn’t prove anything about our fields priority in these matters–we’d have to look at funding, impacts, white papers, etc. But for me, it’s a beginning in looking into it
If you feel I missed an important Physical Review paper or PERC 2014 presentation, let me know in the comments.