When making changes in the way we teach our physics classes, we often want to measure the impact of these changes on our students' learning. Often we do this by administering a research-based assessment at the beginning and end of the class and calculating the change between pre and post. There are several different measures that can be used to tell you, in one number, how to compare learning...
In the wake of COVID-19, many faculty are being asked to quickly shift their classes online. We are sharing with you ideas and resources that align with research-based pedagogical principles, research-validated resources for teaching online, and ideas that colleagues are trying as they make this transition.
Introduction to normalized gain:
The normalized gain, introduced by Hake in 1998 "as a rough measure of the effectiveness of a course in promoting conceptual understanding," has become the standard measure for reporting scores on research-based concept inventories. Hake defined the average normalized gain as:
<g> = (<Post> - <Pre>)/(100 - <Pre>)
In the wake of COVID-19, many faculty are being asked to quickly shift their lab classes online. We are sharing with you ideas and resources that align with research-based pedagogical principles, research-validated resources for teaching labs online, and ideas that colleagues are trying as they make this transition.
Groups do not always work productively, and not all tasks are suited to group work. Poor group dynamics, or ill-suited tasks, can reduce student engagement. This article focuses on helping students engage productively in active learning classrooms through the type of tasks that are used, and support of productive group dynamics.
If you teach using active learning strategies, you may find that students don't automatically engage. Students may just sit back and listen, waiting for their peers to term. Luckily, open resistance is rare. You have the power to impact how students engage with the curriculum and the content.
Instructors who are attempting active learning are often concerned that students won't like it, or will resist. It can be hard, even in the middle of a course, to gauge how well-engaged students are. This article focuses on ways to assess student engagement, both formally and informally.
PhET provides fun, free, interactive, research-based science and mathematics simulations. This post describes why you might want to use PhET, and how other faculty have integrated PhET into undergraduate physics courses -- in lecture, homework, labs, and with inquiry-based activities.
Whiteboards are an indispensable tool that physicists use to work out ideas individually and collaboratively, and to present those ideas, both for public discussion and critique of tentative ideas and for communication of more fully formed ideas. In this recommendation, we offer guidance for how to use whiteboarding effectively in your classroom.
PhET simulations are free, online interactive simulations for teaching and learning science. In this document, we will discuss using PhET in a guided worksheet; a strategy which has been found to support student learning. But how do we help students use the questions and the simulation to think about the physics, or to practice new skills – not just focus on getting to the end of the worksheet?
Do your skeptical colleagues question you or ask you to justify your use of research-based teaching methods in physics? This recommendation provides answers to the most frequently asked questions about research-based teaching in physics from your skeptical colleagues.
-What is PER and why should I care?
-What are research-based teaching methods in physics and why should I care?
Concept inventories such as the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) have had a major impact on physics education reform: The FCI, a test of basic concepts of forces and acceleration, has been given to thousands of students throughout the country and the results show that PER-based teaching methods lead to dramatic improvements in students’ conceptual understanding of mechanics. These…
Many research-based teaching methods in physics, including Peer Instruction, CAE Think-Pair-Share, Technology Enhanced Formative Assessment, and teaching with clickers, involve having your students discuss and answer multiple-choice conceptual questions. A challenge of using these methods is finding and writing good questions. This recommendation helps you find and write questions for your class.
It is challenging for instructors to create and maintain a classroom environment where students are comfortable engaging with each other and sharing their results with the class. This article focuses on creating a supportive and respectful classroom community that welcomes engagement, especially in a classroom using active learning.
Students may approach coursework from a mechanistic stance: If the instructor gives me information, I will memorize it, and get a good grade. This approach to learning doesn't lend itself well to an active classroom, which requires students to wrestle with difficult ideas in order to lead to deeper conceptual learning.
Nearly all research-based teaching methods in physics involve some kind of small group discussions of challenging conceptual activities. Finding good activities is an important component of making small group discussions work in your class. This recommendation includes links to collections where you can find activities to use in your class.
PhET simulations are free, online interactive simulations for teaching and learning science. The impact of lecture demonstrations using PhET is greatly increased when students are given the opportunity to interact with the simulations. This article discusses facilitating student discussions, peer instruction, and interactive lecture demonstrations, with PhET.
What racial, gender, and sexual orientation bias still exists in physics and what can I do about it?February 10, 2016 by Ramón S. Barthelemy
As physicists we often believe that our field is a place where anyone can succeed regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Although overt discrimination has decreased, many kinds of unintentional and intentional bias still run rampant. Fortunately, many of these biases are identifiable and there are actionable steps your department can take to prevent and address…
PhET simulations are free, online interactive simulations for teaching and learning science. PhET is ideal for use in homework because the simulations are designed to cue students to explore cause-and-effect relationships, even without an instructor present.
SCALE-UP is an integrated learning environment where the physical space is designed to discourage lecture and facilitate interactions between small groups working on short, interesting tasks. SCALE-UP classrooms often look more like a restaurant than a lecture hall. Because these classrooms are so different from traditional classroom settings, designing a SCALE-UP classroom can be a challenge.
Periscope connects authentic video episodes from best-practices physics classrooms to big questions of teaching and learning. Periscope lessons are useful if you:
-supervise learning assistants (LAs) or teaching assistants (TAs)
-lead faculty development
-seek to improve physics teaching in your department
-want to improve your own physics teaching
Many active learning techniques require students to discuss their ideas either in small groups or in a large class discussion, but, as you know, students don't always erupt into productive conversation. This article focuses on helping students engage productively in discussions in active learning classrooms.
PhET simulations are free, online interactive simulations for teaching and learning science. The simulations emphasize visual models, cause-and-effect relationships, and multiple representations. Using PhET in a lab setting has many benefits, such as allowing new possibilities for experiments (such as quantum mechanics), quick repeatability, and making visible the underlying mechanisms.
The first day is important for setting the class tone. It is especially important if you are using active engagement strategies, since students may not be expecting the energy and risk that an active classroom demands. This article focuses on activities that can be done in an active learning classroom in the first week of class, to increase student engagement throughout the semester.
Here is a list of resources where you can learn more about research-based teaching in physics.
Concept inventories are useful for assessing the effectiveness of your teaching, but as you use them, concerns and questions often come up. Here we discuss some common concerns about using concept inventories and related research that addresses these concerns.
There are a plethora of concept inventories in physics available for faculty to use. These multiple-choice research-based tests about physics concepts are valuable because they allow for standardized comparisons among institutions, instructors, or over time. In order for these comparisons to be meaningful, you should use best practices for administering and interpreting the tests.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us teaching physics as well as those teaching other subjects in face-to-face brick-and-mortar classrooms have suddenly found themselves in an unprecedented situation: the rest of the term should immediately transition to a completely online format! Here I outline some strategies and resources that can help you and your colleagues.
This is a draft outline for an article describing the results of physics education research that are most important for practicing physics instructors to know and apply in their classrooms. We will be publishing the results in installments on PhysPort. The goals of this article are to explain the research behind each result in enough detail that readers can easily understand why…
PhET simulations are free, online interactive simulations for teaching and learning science. Some teachers use the simulations in-class with guided worksheets or labs. This document describes some suggestions for facilitating activities using PhET -- in a class, lab, or recitation -- in order to get your students to engage with PhET activities.
Clicker questions are increasingly being used to stimulate student discussion and provide faculty and students with timely feedback. Research suggests that discussing clicker questions can lead to increased student learning, and that students exchanging constructive criticism can generate conceptual change.
What can you do as an instructor to encourage all students to have…
Whiteboards are a great tool for students to work out ideas individually and collaboratively, and to present those ideas. Based on reports from expert educators, this recommendation discusses the questions you should ask when choosing whiteboards, and the advantages and disadvantages of each type of whiteboard, product suggestions, and the advantages of whiteboards over other collaboration tools.
Tutorials in Introductory Physics are a research-based student activity, developed by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington (UW). Students work in small groups to complete worksheets based on common student difficulties. Extensive research has demonstrated that Tutorials can improve student learning when implemented properly. Tutorials have been implemented…
PhysPort contains guides to over 50 "PER-based teaching methods," also known as "interactive engagement" or "active learning" methods. We use "teaching method" in the broadest possible sense, to include curricula, techniques, resources, tools, and reform strategies. To implement these methods effectively, it is helpful to understand the essential features that make them work.
While switching your in-person, active-learning physics classroom to an online environment, how can you navigate technical and curricular issues in a kind and humane way? We argue for devoting some of your remaining bandwidth to this issue: helping students continue to frame their "in-class" activity as sense-making.
Many research-based teaching methods in physics include activities in which graduate teaching assistants (TAs) and/or undergraduate learning assistants (LAs) facilitate students working in small groups. The success of these methods thus depends heavily on how well TAs and LAs are trained in effective facilitation. Ideally, TAs and LAs should take a course in which they learn about the…
Physics education researchers have created several surveys to assess one important aspect of thinking like a physicist: what students believe that learning physics is all about. In this article, we introduce attitudes and beliefs surveys and give advice on how to choose, administer, and score them in your classes.
I want to give my students something to work on in groups, but what should they work on? I know that researchers have created many physics activities, but I don't know what I'm looking for. What does a good activity look like? OR, I'm really excited about inventing my own labs or worksheets to give students, but I don't know how to design an activity.
Student learning outcomes, or SLOs, are an explicit statement of what you expect students to learn. SLOs can be defined for a topic, course or an entire program of study. SLOs define what is expected of students and what it means to understand something, without defining how that understanding will be taught. SLOs help sharpen the focus on student learning.
This expert recommendation describes and compares 7 observation protocols which enable faculty to articulate the goals of teaching observations and focus on particular aspects of the classroom.
Several research-based teaching methods, including Peer Instruction, CAE Think/Pair/Share, and Technology-Enhanced Formative Assessment, involve asking students to discuss and answer multiple-choice conceptual questions in class. There are at least three methods of collecting students’ answers to these questions: clickers, flashcards, and show of hands. Lasry…
PhysPort es un recurso de internet para apoyar a los profesores de física a utilizar estrategias de enseñanza y evaluación basadas en investigación en sus clases. El sitio es en ingles, pero muchos de los recursos a que se refiere han sido traducido a español. Esta página tiene una lista de recursos para enseñanza y evaluación…
One topic within ongoing discussions about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in physics is how we can transform our classroom environments to generate welcoming, inclusive, and equitable spaces for all students. I will discuss evidence-based approaches, and I will provide examples of what these approaches look like in practice using an astronomy curriculum I developed.
If you are using multiple-choice concept inventories such as the FCI, BEMA, or CLASS to assess your students’ learning, the PhysPort Data Explorer can help you get instant analysis and visualization of your results. In order to use the Data Explorer, you’ll need to have your students’ responses in some kind of electronic spreadsheet, such as an Excel or .csv file.…
Several leaders in physics education research (PER) have put together "Intro to PER" courses for graduate students and advanced undergraduates. If you are teaching a course like this, this collection of course websites and syllabi contains lots of good ideas for what to do in your course.
As physicists and physics educators we know that a physics education is much more than computational problem solving and bookwork. Knowledge and skills needed to navigate a career pathway in physics that are often learned informally include:
-the unspoken requirement to do undergraduate research
-the necessity to study for the physics GRE well in advance of the test date
-strong research lab...
Several observation protocols are available on the General Observation and Reflection Platform (GORP). GORP is a secure web-based platform that allows users to customize existing observation protocols, (and create their own protocols), in order to simplify data collection and sharing.
This article discusses the process of developing and validating research-based assessment instruments in the physics and astronomy education research community.
This article discusses and compares 11 research-based assessments in kinematics and forces, energy, rotation and density to help instructors choose one to use in their introductory course. It also discusses one assessment for intermediate mechanics.
Concept inventories are useful for assessing the effectiveness of your teaching, but only if your students take them seriously. You may be worried about how seriously your students are taking them. Here is what we know about students taking concept inventories seriously and some ideas for how you can encourage your students to do their best on these kinds of tests.
How seriously do…
Here are instructions for building 7-foot diameter round tables for use in SCALE-UP classrooms, where students spend the majority of their time working in small groups on interesting projects. These tables are the ideal size and shape for SCALE-UP classrooms, according to the developer of SCALE-UP, and can comfortably seat 3 groups of 3 students at each table.
Many universities require a "writing across the curriculum" (WAC) course, where students receive focused instruction on writing in their discipline. Informal writing is integral to how physicists do physics. By explicitly attending to informal writing, you can address many WAC goals and support the effective use of research-based methods in physics.
This article describes an approach to introducing discussions about equity into the physics classroom, based on the Underrepresentation Curriculum (https://underrep.com).
This article discusses and compares 9 research-based assessments about students' beliefs and attitudes, 2 assessments about the nature of science and 3 assessments about self-efficacy in physics.
This article discusses and compares 9 research-based assessments in electricity, magnetism and circuits to help instructors choose one to use in their introductory course. It also discusses 3 electricity and magnetism for upper-level courses.
This article discusses and compares 3 research-based assessments on problem-solving to help you choose one to use in your course.
This article discusses and compares 2 research-based assessments on scientific reasoning to help you choose one to use in your course.
This article discusses and compares 3 intermediate quantum mechanics research-based assessments, 5 upper-level quantum mechanics assessments and one relativity assessment to help instructors choose one to use in their course.
This article discusses and compares 4 research-based assessments on thermodynamics help instructors choose one to use in their course.
We're getting the physics education research out of those stuffy journals and into your hands (or, rather, ears) with this little audio podcast. Co-hosted by veteran high school physics teacher Michael Fuchs and physicist and education researcher Stephanie Chasteen, each episode investigates a piece of the research literature and how it can relate to your classroom.
This article discusses and compares 6 research-based assessments in mathematics to use in your physics class to assess students' level of math readiness for a given physics class, or to assess students' understanding of math topics that are covered in physics classes.
This article discusses and compares 8 research-based assessments in astronomy to help instructors choose one to use in their introductory course.
This article discusses and compares 5 research-based assessments on optics and waves: 4 for introductory courses and 1 for an upper-level course.
This article discusses and compares 4 research-based assessments on lab skills to help you choose one to use in your course.