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>)
If you incorporate active-learning strategies into your teaching, you may find that students don't automatically embrace this new learning approach. What are research-based recommendations for motivating students to engage? This is the introduction to a series of recommendations discussing strategies to support student engagement. INTRODUCTION.
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.
Most active learning techniques involve the creation of student groups, but 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 in active learning. This seventh chapter of our student engagement series focuses on support of productive group dynamics. CHAPTER 7: GROUP WORK
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 fifth chapter of our student engagement series focuses on ways to assess student engagement, both formally and informally. CHAPTER 5: ASSESSMENT
When students encounter an active learning classroom, they may be unsure of what is expected of them. They may fear they won't be evaluated fairly, or won't see a clear path towards success, reducing their engagement in activities. This second chapter of our student engagement series focuses on how to create clear expectations for student engagement and learning. CHAPTER 1: EXPECTATIONS.
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.
How can I help students feel intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to engage in active learning?June 20, 2017 by Stephanie Chasteen, University of Colorado Boulder
If students don't want to engage in active learning, it's pretty hard to force them. You can't rely solely on grades to spark students to action. This third chapter in our student engagement series focuses on motivating students to engage productively in active learning classrooms through the use of various internal and external rewards. CHAPTER 3: MOTIVATION
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.
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…
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 difficulty increases with class size. This fourth chapter in our student engagement series focuses on creating a supportive and respectful classroom community that welcomes engagement. CHAPTER 4: CLASS COMMUNITY
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?
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.
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?
Students may expect to simply memorize and recite information to succeed in your course. But this approach doesn't match well with an active classroom, where students wrestle with difficult ideas collaboratively. This second chapter of our student engagement strategy series focuses on teaching students to develop more productive mindsets towards learning. CHAPTER 2: METACOGNITION AND MASTERY.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
PhysPort, the site you're on right now, is designed to support physics teaching by providing resources based on physics education research (PER), including guides to 50+ research-based teaching methods, guides to 50+ research-based assessments, expert recommendations by PhysPort staff and PER experts, and video workshops for faculty professional development and TA/LA…
When students come into your class, they may not be expecting an active class. The first day is particularly important for framing the norms, expectations, and rationale for your class approach, tapping into students' internal motivations and creating a supportive class community. This sixth chapter of our student engagement series focuses on the first week of class. CHAPTER 6: FIRST DAY
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.
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 eighth chapter of our student engagement series focuses on helping students engage in class discussions. CHAPTER 8: STUDENT DISCUSSIONS.
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.
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…
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…
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…
While active resistance among students is relatively rare, sometimes students do complain about active learning techniques. This ninth chapter of our student engagement series focuses on addressing some common student complaints in active learning classrooms. CHAPTER 9: STUDENT COMPLAINTS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.…
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…
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...
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…
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.
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 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.
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 the process of developing and validating research-based assessment instruments in the physics and astronomy education research community.
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.
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.
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 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 2 research-based assessments on scientific reasoning to help you choose one to use in your course.
This article discusses and compares 4 research-based assessments on thermodynamics help instructors choose one to use in their 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 3 research-based assessments on problem-solving to help you choose one to use in your course.
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 4 research-based assessments on lab skills to help you choose one to use in your course.
This article discusses and compares 8 research-based assessments in astronomy to help instructors choose one to use in their introductory course.