CAREER: Physics Education Research and Contexts of Student Learning

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

This research program investigates the central role of context in the practice of physics education. That is, how and what students learn depends not only on traditionally conceived content but also upon the formation of tasks, class environments, and broader institutional structures in which the content is embedded. This project coordinates research studies on the role of context in student learning at two different levels: the individual, and the course. (The role of the department has been left for other studies.) Each of these levels (a. individual) and (b. course) is studied across three themes: (i) tools that are used, (ii) practices using these tools, and (iii) norms surrounding these practices. In particular these studies focus on: (a.i.) individual student use of tools, (a.ii) practices, how students use these tools, (a.iii) student beliefs about learning physics and how these influence practices. At the course level, research has focused on: (b.i) the use of tools in courses, (b.ii) the construction of courses and practices which support student learning, and (b.iii) studies of replication and sustainability of educational practices.

Setting: 

Generally research occurs in undergraduate physics classrooms at the University of Colorado in Boulder Colorado. Additional research occurs in community partnership / afterschool programs in housing centers in surrounding communities (these are usually but not exclusively low income, and with underrepresented populations).

Research Design: 

The research design for this project is longitudinal and cross-sectional, and is designed to generate evidence which is descriptive (case study, ethnography, observational), associative and/or correlational (quasi-experimental), causal (experimental, quasi-experimental, statistical modeling), and synthetic (meta-analysis). This project runs intervention studies by creating educational programs and studying their impacts (e.g. Tutorials in Introductory Physics (see citations) in 2005 and 2008), or afterschool programs (see PERC 2008). This project collects original data using: school records/ policy documents; assessments of learning/achievement tests; personal and videography observation; paper and pencil and online self-completion questionnaires; and face-to-face structured and semi-structured interviews. The analysis used depends on the project. This CAREER supports four or five major initiatives that are being studied in coordination. Generally we do a mix of statistical modeling of results (e.g. pre / post measures of learning) and associate these with coded observations, videos, or artifacts from the environments. We triangulate among as many sources as we can collect to understand the role of the critical variables (particular interventions, development of new educational tools, etc).

Findings: 

This project considers educational context across three themes: (1) tools, (2) practices, (3) norms; and two levels: (A) individual and (B) course. This project has made contributions within each of the six areas, described in the citations below. The studies have generally been conducted across two segment areas (across either theme or level), which is beginning to allow an understanding of the nature of the interplay among these different contexts of student learning.

Publications & Presentations: 

Refereed Journal Articles:

L. KOST, S.J. POLLOCK, AND N. FINKELSTEIN, “CHARACTERIZING THE GENDER GAP IN INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS,” PHYSICAL REVIEW ST: PHYS EDUC. RESEARCH, 5, 010101 (2009).

S. POLLOCK AND N. FINKELSTEIN, “SUSTAINING EDUCATIONAL REFORMS IN INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS,” PHYS. REV. ST PHYSICS ED. RESEARCH 4, 010110 (2008)

P. KOHL AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "PATTERNS OF MULTIPLE REPRESENTATION USE BY EXPERTS AND NOVICES DURING PHYSICS PROBLEM SOLVING," PHYS. REV. ST PHYSICS ED. RESEARCH 4, 010111, (2008)

E. PRICE AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "PREPARING GRADUATE STUDENTS TO BE EDUCATORS", AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS, 76(7), PP. 684-690 (2008).

N. S. PODOLEFSKY AND N.D.FINKELSTEIN, "ANALOGICAL SCAFFOLDING AND LEARNING ABSTRACT IDEAS IN PHYSICS: EMPIRICAL STUDIES." PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 3, 020104, 16 PGS, (2007)

N.S. PODOLEFSKY AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "ANALOGICAL SCAFFOLDING AND THE LEARNING OF ABSTRACT IDEAS IN PHYSICS: AN EXAMPLE FROM ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES," PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH 3, 010109, 12 PGS, (2007).

P. KOHL, N.D. FINKELSTEIN, D. ROSENGRANT, "STRONGLY AND WEAKLY DIRECTED APPROACHES TO TEACHING MULTIPLE REPRESENTATION USE IN PHYSICS," PHYSICAL
REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH
, 3, 010108, 10 PGS, (2007).

S. J. POLLOCK, N.D. FINKELSTEIN AND L. KOST, " REDUCING THE GENDER GAP IN THE PHYSICS CLASSROOM," PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 3, 010107, 4 PGS, (2007).

N.D. FINKELSTEIN, W. ADAMS, C. KELLER, K. PERKINS, C. WIEMAN AND THE PHET TEAM, "HIGH-TECH TOOLS FOR TEACHING PHYSICS: THE PHYSICS EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY PROJECT," JOURNAL OF ONLINE LEARNING AND TEACHING, 2(3), 109.
11PGS, (2006).

N.S. PODOLEFSKY AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “THE PERCEIVED VALUE OF COLLEGE PHYSICS
TEXTBOOKS: STUDENTS AND INSTRUCTORS MAY NOT SEE EYE TO EYE,” THE PHYSICS TEACHER, 44(8), 338-342, (2006).

V.OTERO, N.D. FINKELSTEIN, R. MCCRAY, AND S. POLLOCK, "WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PREPARING SCIENCE TEACHERS?" SCIENCE 313(5786), 445-446 (2006).

N.S. PODOLEFSKY AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "USE OF ANALOGY IN LEARNING PHYSICS: THE ROLE OF REPRESENTATIONS,” PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 2, 020101, 10 PGS, (2006).

P.B. KOHL AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “EFFECT OF REPRESENTATION ON STUDENTS SOLVING PHYSICS PROBLEMS: A FINE-GRAINED CHARACTERIZATION,” PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 2, 010106, 12 PGS, (2006).

P.B. KOHL AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “THE EFFECT OF INSTRUCTIONAL ENVIRONMENT ON PHYSICS STUDENTS’ REPRESENTATIONALSKILLS,” PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 2,1,010102, 8 PGS, (2006).

W.K. ADAMS, K.K. PERKINS, M. DUBSON, N.D. FINKELSTEIN, AND C.E. WIEMAN, “A NEW INSTRUMENT FOR MEASURING STUDENT BELIEFS ABOUT PHYSICS AND LEARNING PHYSICS: THE COLORADO LEARNING ATTITUDES ABOUT SCIENCE SURVEY,” PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH. 2,1,010101, 14
PGS, (2006).

K.K. PERKINS, W. ADAMS, N. D. FINKELSTEIN, M. DUBSON, R. LEMASTER, S. REID, AND C.E. WIEMAN, “PHET: INTERACTIVE SIMULATIONS FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING PHYSICS,” PHYSICS TEACHER 44(1), 18-23, (2006)

N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “LEARNING PHYSICS IN CONTEXT: A STUDY OF STUDENT LEARNING ABOUT ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM," INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION, 27, 1187-1210, (2005).

P. KOHL AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “STUDENT REPRESENTATIONAL COMPETENCE, SELF-ASSESSMENT, AND PROBLEM SOLVING IN PHYSICS,” PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 1, 010104, 11PGS, (2005).

N D. FINKELSTEIN, K. PERKINS, W. ADAMS, K. KELLER, P. KOHL, N. PODOLEFSKY, S. REID, AND R. LEMASTER, “WHEN LEARNING ABOUT THE REAL WORLD IS BETTER DONE VIRTUALLY: A STUDY OF SUBSTITUTING COMPUTER SIMULATIONS FOR LABORATORY EQUIPMENT,” PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPECIAL TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 1, 010103, 8 PGS, (2005).

N.D. FINKELSTEIN AND S.J. POLLOCK, “REPLICATING AND UNDERSTANDING SUCCESSFUL INNOVATIONS: IMPLEMENTING TUTORIALS IN INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS," PHYSICAL REVIEW, SPEC TOPICS: PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, 1, 010101, 13 PGS, (2005).

Reviewed Book Chapters:

R. SAM LARSON, A. BEACH, J. FROYD, C. HENDERSON, AND N. FINKELSTEIN, "IMPROVING CHANGE AGENTS’ EFFICACY IN SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS EDUCATION," RESEARCH IN SOCIAL PROBLEMS AND PUBLIC POLICY, VOL. 16, OCT 2008

Papers in Reviewed Conference Proceedings:

N.D. FINKELSTEIN AND L. MAYHEW, “ACTING IN OUR OWN SELF-INTEREST: BLENDING UNIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2008 PHYSICS EDUCATION
RESEARCH CONF
, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 1064, (2008).

C. TURPEN AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “INSTITUTIONALIZING CHANGE: CASE STUDIES & INSTITUTIONAL ANALYSIS OF PEDAGOGICAL REFORM IN INTRO PHYS,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2008 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 1064, (2008).

N. PODOLEFSKY AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “HOW ABSTRACT IS ABSTRACT? SIGNS, SALIENCE, AND MEANING IN PHYSICS,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2008 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 1064, (2008).

C. HENDERSON, A. BEACH AND N.D FINKELSTEIN, FACILITATING CHANGE IN UNDERGRADUATE STEM: PRELIMINARY RESULTS FROM AN INTERDISCIPLINARY LITERATURE REVIEW,” ROCEEDINGS OF THE 2008 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 1064, (2008).

C. BAILY AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “STUDENT UNDERSTANDING OF QUANTUM MEASUREMENT AND NCERTAINTY,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2008 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 1064, (2008).

L. MAYHEW AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “NEW MEDIA AND MODELS FOR ENGAGING UNDERREPRESENTED STUDENTS IN SCIENCE,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2008 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 1064, (2008).

L. KOST, S. POLLOCK AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “THE PERSISTENCE OF
THE GENDER GAP IN INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2008 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 1064, (2008).

A. BEACH, C. HENDERSON, N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “FACILITATING CHANGE IN UNDERGRADUATE SCIENCE INSTRUCTION: SYNTHESIS OF CHANGE STRATEGIES ACROSS DISCIPLINES," ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 2008 1064, (2008).

P. KOHL AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "EXPERT AND NOVICE USE OF MULTIPLE REPRESENTATIONS DURING PHYSICS PROBLEM SOLVING," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2007 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 951 (2007).

C. TURPEN AND N. FINKELSTEIN, "UNDERSTANDING PHYSICS FACULTY’S USE OF PEER INSTRUCTION," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2007 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 951 (2007).

L .KOST, S. POLLOCK, AND N. FINKELSTEIN, "INVESTIGATING THE SOURCE OF THE GENDER GAP IN INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2007 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 951 (2007).

N. PODOLEFSKY AND N. FINKELSTEIN, "SALIENCE OF REPRESENTATIONS AND ANALOGIES IN PHYSICS," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2007 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 951 (2007).

C. KELLER, N. FINKELSTEIN, S. POLLOCK, C. TURPEN, "RESEARCH-BASED PRACTICES FOR EFFECTIVE CLICKER USE," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2007 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 951 (2007).

C. KELLER, N FINKELSTEIN, K. PERKINS, AND S. POLLOCK, "STUDYING THE USE OF COMPUTER SIMULATIONS IN UNDERGRADUATE LABORATORY ENVIRONMENTS," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2006 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 883, 121-124, (2007).

P. KOHL, D. ROSENGRANT AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "COMPARING EXPLICIT AND IMPLICIT TEACHING OF MULTIPLE REPRESENTATION USE IN PHYSICS PROBLEM SOLVING," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2006 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 883, 145-148, (2007).

S. J. POLLOCK AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, " SUSTAINING CHANGE: INSTRUCTOR EFFECTS IN TRANSFORMED LARGE LECTURE COURSES," PROC OF THE 2006 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONF, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 883, 109-112, (2007).

N.S. PODOLEFSKY AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "REFRAMING ANALOGY: FRAMING, BLENDING, AND REPRESENTATIONS AS MECHANISMS OF LEARNING BY ANALOGY," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2006 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 883, 97-100, (2007).

N. D. FINKELSTEIN, C. TURPEN, S. POLLOCK, M. DUBSON, S. IONA, C. KELLER, AND V. OTERO, “EVALUATING A MODEL OF RESEARCH-BASED PRACTICES FOR TEACHER PREPARATION IN A PHYSICS DEPARTMENT: COLORADO PHYSTEC,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2005 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 818, 3-6, (2006).

C. KELLER, N. D. FINKELSTEIN, K.K. PERKINS, AND S.J. POLLOCK, “ASSESSING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A COMPUTER SIMULATION IN CONJUNCTION WITH TUTORIALS IN INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2005 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH
CONFERENCE
, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 818, 109-112 (2006).

P.B. KOHL AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, “REPRESENTATIONAL COMPETENCE AND INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS,” PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2005 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 818, 93-97, (2006).

K.K. PERKINS, M.M. GRATNY, W.K. ADAMS, N.D. FINKELSTEIN AND C.E. WIEMAN, “TOWARDS CHARACTERIZING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STUDENTS’ SELF-REPORTED INTEREST IN AND THEIR SURVEYED BELIEFS ABOUT PHYSICS," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2005 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PRESS. MELVILLE NY, 818, 137-141, (2006).

N.D. FINKELSTEIN, K. K. PERKINS, W. ADAMS, P. KOHL, AND N. PODOLEFSKY, "CAN COMPUTER SIMULATIONS REPLACE REAL EQUIPMENT IN UNDERGRADUATE LABORATORIES?" PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2004 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PUBLISHING: MELVILLE, NY, 790. 101-104, (2005).

P. KOHL AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "REPRESENTATIONAL FORMAT, STUDENT CHOICE, AND PROBLEMSOLVING IN PHYSICS," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2004 PHYSICS EDUCATION RSRCH CONF, AIP PUBLISHING: MELVILLE, NY, 790. 121-124, (2005).

W. K. ADAMS, K. K. PERKINS, M. DUBSON, N.D. FINKELSTEIN, AND C.
E. WIEMAN, "THE DESIGN AND VALIDATION OF THE COLORADO LEARNING ATTITUDES ABOUT SCIENCE SURVEY," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2004 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PUBLISHING: MELVILLE, NY, 790, 45-48, (2005).

K.K. PERKINS, W.K. ADAMS, S.J. POLLOCK, N.D. FINKELSTEIN AND
C. E. WIEMAN, "CORRELATING STUDENT ATTITUDES WITH STUDENT LEARNING USING THE COLORADO LEARNING ATTITUDES ABOUT SCIENCE SURVEY," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2004 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PUBLISHING: MELVILLE, NY, 790. 61-64, (2005).

N.D. FINKELSTEIN AND E. PRICE, "SEEDING CHANGE: THE CHALLENGES OF TRANSFER AND TRANSFORMATION OF EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE AND RESEARCH IN PHYSICS (PART I)," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2004 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP PUBLISHING: MELVILLE, NY, 790. 15-18, (2005).

E. PRICE AND N.D. FINKELSTEIN, "SEEDING CHANGE: THE CHALLENGES OF TRANSFER AND TRANSFORMATION OF EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE AND RESEARCH IN PHYSICS (PART II)," PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2004 PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE, AIP
PUBLISHING: MELVILLE, NY, 790, 19-22, (2005).