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Abstract Title: Helping students acquire functional knowledge in upper-level physics courses
Abstract: In this poster gallery and discussion session, presenters will first discuss research related to helping students acquire a functional knowledge in upper-level physics courses after a brief introduction by the discussant. Then there will be a panel discussion. Topics will include upper-level classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics and mathematical methods. Research in physics education suggestions that students in advanced physics courses often struggle with material covered in these advanced courses. They have many common difficulties in learning different concepts and these struggles are compounded by the mathematical sophistication required to master the required concepts. Helping advanced physics students develop a better knowledge structure and acquire functional understanding can reduce anxiety and make learning fun.
Abstract Type: Poster Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Chandralekha Singh
University of Pittsburgh
3941 Ohara St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: 4126249045
Fax: 4126246381

Symposium Specific Information

Discussant: Chandralekha Singh
Moderator: Chandralekha Singh
Presentation 1 Title: Exploring the affective domain in teaching intermediate mechanics: Benefits and challenges arising from a tutorial approach
Presentation 1 Authors: Bradley S. Ambrose,  Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI
Presentation 1 Abstract: Intermediate mechanics is often the first undergraduate theory course that physics majors and minors take beyond the introductory level.  Unless their introductory courses were substantially reformed by PER-tested teaching and learning strategies, physics students may very likely hold unproductive attitudes, expectations, and habits of mind that have been reinforced from their experiences in introductory physics.  Such beliefs and attitudes will not only contribute to challenges they will face in their advanced courses but how they will try to respond to those challenges.  This targeted poster is designed to spark discussion about how recent PER and curriculum development efforts can help address such affective issues in the context of a reformed intermediate mechanics course.  Examples of teaching and assessment strategies developed in the context of the Intermediate Mechanics Tutorials (IMT) project will be presented. [1]  Examples will include those shared by pilot-site implementers of IMT materials.  Emphasized in particular will be the benefits and challenges of resources like IMT that incorporate guided inquiry but that are meant to supplement--not replace--a lecture-based approach.

1.  Supported by NSF grants DUE-0441426 and DUE-0442388.  For details see Ambrose, Am. J. Phys. 72, 453 – 459 (2004).
Presentation 2 Title: Transforming upper-division E&M:  approaches, assessments and outcomes
Presentation 2 Authors: Steven Pollock, Charles Baily, Bethany Wilcox, Marcos Caballero, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Presentation 2 Abstract: The University of Colorado at Boulder is involved in a systematic program of upper-division course transformations in the context of Electromagnetism I and II. Starting from faculty consensus learning goals, we are developing a suite of research-based materials to engage students in lecture settings, along with a variety of assessment tools at both topical and course levels to investigate student learning and course outcomes. We summarize our ongoing efforts, including preliminary results from our new course-level electrodynamics assessment, and a redesigned multiple-choice version of our electrostatics assessment. We also present early results from an analytical framework on student use of mathematics in these E&M courses which helps us characterize and organize common difficulties.  We provide a sampling of materials now freely available on our online dissemination site, and outline ongoing challenges both in terms of student learning, and sustainability of course transformations.
Presentation 3 Title: Improving students' understanding of quantum mechanics
Presentation 3 Authors: Chandralekha Singh and Emily Marshman,  University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Presentation 3 Abstract: Learning quantum mechanics is challenging, in part due to the abstract nature of the subject. We have been conducting investigations of the difficulties that students have in learning quantum mechanics. To help improve student understanding of quantum concepts, we are developing quantum interactive learning tutorials (QuILTs) as well as tools for peer-instruction. The goal of QuILTs and peer-instruction tools is to actively engage students in the learning process and to help them build links between the formalism and the conceptual aspects of quantum physics without compromising the technical content. They focus on helping students integrate qualitative and quantitative understanding, and discriminate between concepts that are often confused. We will discuss examples of materials and assessment.
Supported by the National Science Foundation.
Presentation 4 Title: Research and curriculum development in upper-division thermal physics
Presentation 4 Authors: Michael Loverude, California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA
Presentation 4 Abstract: This poster describes work conducted as part of an NSF-funded project of research and curriculum development in upper-division thermal physics courses.  As part of this project, we have described research on student learning of a number of specific topics on which there is relatively little prior research, including elementary statistics and statistical physics (Loverude 2009), entropy and the approach to thermal equilibrium (Loverude 2012), heat engines (Smith 2009), and Boltzmann factors (Smith 2010).  A second key thread of this project has involved the underlying mathematics and its impact of student learning of physics (Wagner 2011, Wemyss 2011).  In this poster, we will take a broad look at the project as a whole, including research as well as curriculum development efforts, and summarize key findings.  

Supported in part by NSF grants DUE-0817335 and DUE-0817282.
Presentation 5 Title: Tangible Metaphors
Presentation 5 Authors: Corinne Manogue and David Roundy, Oregon State University, OR
Presentation 5 Abstract: Upper-division physics requires students to use abstract mathematical
objects to model measurable properties of physical entities.   We have
developed activities that engage students in using their own bodies or simple home-built apparatus as metaphors for novel (to the students) types of mathematical objects.  These tangible metaphors are chosen to be rich, robust, and flexible so that students can explore several properties of the mathematical objects over an extended period of time.  The collaborative nature of the activities and inherent silliness of "dancing"  out the behavior of currents or spinors certainly increases the fun in the classroom and may also decrease students' fear of learning about these mathematical objects.  We include examples from the electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics content in the Paradigms in Physics program at Oregon State University.

DUE 1023120