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Abstract Title: Iteration, Ownership, and Emotions: Examining How Classroom Experiences in Physics Move Outside the Classroom
Abstract: An initial and enduring goal for PER has been understanding and improving students' content knowledge, an enterprise that has employed now-familiar methodologies of interviews, pre/post paradigms, and concept inventories. More recently, the field has extended its work to consider factors that influence how students learn content, and new methodologies have been employed. The speakers in this session have research goals that lie further from traditional content outcomes, and require methodologies that are less common in PER. Each speaker in this session will focus on: identifying our non-content goal (that is, how did we arrive at this goal as an outcome), characterizing these goals (that is, how are we making progress on articulating/operationalizing this goal), and developing/selecting methodologies to make progress on research related to this goal.  A discussant will then lead a conversation on ways in which researchers can identify and engage in unfamiliar methodologies.
Abstract Type: Talk Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Leslie Atkins Elliott
Boise State University
and Co-Presenter(s)
Angela Little, Michigan State University

Symposium Specific Information

Discussant: Rosemary Russ, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Moderator: Rosemary Russ, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Presentation 1 Title: Reducing the "real world"/classroom divide
Presentation 1 Authors: Leslie Atkins Elliott (Boise State University) and Angela Little (Michigan State University)
Presentation 1 Abstract: What does it look like to create educational spaces that reduce barriers between the classroom and the "real world"? We report on two research strands (Transformative Experiences (TE) and Definitional Ownership (DO)) that examine related goals: students use ideas constructed in class (a concept or a definition) to "see" their everyday world in new and meaningful ways. (E.g. "I am now constantly thinking about how light rays travel" and "I see thresholds everywhere now!") Research on these strands require methodological innovations; we will discuss novel analysis methods as well as our ongoing efforts to connect with existing methodologies and research strands. For instance, the following shared theme has emerged from our joint work: positioning students as accountable authors (Greeno, 2006) of scientific concepts plays a role in an expansive framing (Engle, 2006; Engle, et al, 2012) of classroom activity; such framing, we hypothesize, fosters both TE and DO.  Research supported through NSF Grant #1140785 and Spencer Foundation Grant #201100101.
Presentation 2 Title: Articulating Problems
Presentation 2 Authors: Anna Phillips, Jessica Watkins and David Hammer (Tufts University)
Presentation 2 Abstract: "The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old questions from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science." (Einstein & Infield, 1938)
We present results from a project, The dynamics of learners' engagement and persistence in science, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (#3475). In this work, we first identify exemplars of students' doing science, working with a team of scientists to vet candidate episodes from existing data as well as new data collected in undergraduate courses. We then analyze each case, to understand what we can of its particular dynamics. Finally, we look across the cases for patterns. In this presentation, we discuss one finding: Six of the nine cases involve students working to articulate and motivate problems, where by "problem," we mean an inconsistency or gap in understanding. This work of problematizing, we contend, reflects disciplinary practices in science: Doing science involves having and expressing uncertainty and confusion, and working within realms of uncertainty to pin down what, precisely, is not understood. We argue for valuing students' attempts at articulating a problem as scientific activity, and the articulation of a problem as a scientific achievement in its own right. Drawing on our analysis, we present responsive teaching moves and strategies that can support students' problematizing.
Presentation 3 Title: Meta-affective learning
Presentation 3 Authors: Jen Radoff (Tufts University), Lama Jaber (Florida State University), and David Hammer (Tufts University)
Presentation 3 Abstract: We present an analysis of interview data and written work from a freshman engineering student, Marya, to illustrate the substantive role of affect in her learning experiences within a reformed introductory physics course. Marya described how, through this course, she shifted from being intimidated by physics to feeling excited about and empowered to do physics. We claim that at the heart of Marya's transformation is a shift in her attitudes and dispositions with respect to struggle, confusion, and uncertainty in the doing of science. We see this shift as an example of meta-affective learning-- i.e., the development of productive feelings and dispositions for navigating intellectual challenges. Marya described how she came to see physics as a pursuit of understanding rather than being about absolutes. Correspondingly, she shifted from feeling anxious about "being wrong" to taking pleasure in exploring ideas and making discoveries. Marya's transformation invites us to attend carefully to the role of meta-affect in science, and to foster students' productive dispositions with respect to struggle, confusion, and uncertainty as an important target in science education.
Presentation 4 Title: Defining Professional STEM Practice
Presentation 4 Authors: Anne Leak and Ben Zwickl (Rochester Institute of Technology)
Presentation 4 Abstract: We examine how math, physics, communication skills and other relevant ideas from undergraduate physics get utilized in optics and photonics workplaces by entry-level employees who have recently finished school. Nearly all of our research interests lie beyond content learning goals and emphasizes the context, goals, representations, and tools that define professional STEM practice. Our methodology involves a large scale (N = 100+) qualitative study with in-depth (1 hour long) semi-structured interviews. Challenges include identifying appropriate samples across diverse contexts (even a limited field like optics has very diverse workplace practices), triangulating views on workplace skills (entry-level employee perspectives vs managers vs HR), making personal connections with a wide range of industry folks despite being an outsider from academia, organizing and analyzing large scale qualitative data, and trying to conduct and communicate research that both academically trained physicists and industrial physicists and engineers find relevant.