SPS Zone 5 Home Page: Invited Talk Abstracts

A Look to the Future: Research-based Physics Standards
Dr. Patricia Heller
Department of Physics and Department of Education
University of Minnesota
Almost two decades after the American Association for the Advancement of Science's "Benchmarks for Science Literacy" and the National Academies' "National Science Education Standards" set in motion attempts to systemize science standards in K-12 education, there is a growing realization at both the state and national level that those standards need to be revised to be based more firmly on student learning research.  This talk addresses three questions: Why should you care about new national and state physics standards?  What will be different about these physics new standards? What effect will the new standards have on physics curriculum and instruction?

The KEPLER Mission – A Search for Habitable Worlds
Roger Hunter
Project Manager - KEPLER Mission NASA
KEPLER is NASA's first mission capable of finding earth-size worlds around other stars.  Launched in March, 2009, KEPLER's objective is to determine if other Earths exist in our galaxy and how many are there.  The results of KEPLER will be profound – either Earth is a very rare planet, or earth-like planets are commonplace.  The speaker, Roger Hunter (UGA '78) is the NASA Project Manager for the KEPLER Mission.   He leads a team of over 80 scientists and engineers on a mission that is expected to last at least 3 ½ years in search of another earth.  The discussion will provide an overview of the KEPLER mission, its capabilities and characteristics, results to date, and mission expectations.

Learner-Centered Teaching in Physics and Astronomy:  When our students aren't learning are we really teaching?
Dr. Edward Prather
Department of Astronomy
University of Arizona
When we think about how we were socialized into the world of teaching and learning as university science students, it is not surprising that we tend to practice traditional lecture methods with our students once we start teaching our own courses.  Acknowledging that traditional lecture-based instruction is ineffective at promoting significant conceptual gains for our students is only the first step.  Over the last 20 years researchers in physics and astronomy have been conducting systematic investigations to better understand the conceptual and reasoning difficulties students have with common topics taught in our introductory science courses.  The great majority of the instructional interventions that have been informed by this research have focused on creating active learning strategies for collaborative student-groups working in small enrollment recitation sessions or laboratory environments.  But what can we do in the traditional lecture setting that really works to help our students learn?