transforming_physics_education

To move a student toward expert competence the

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Unformatted text preview: ly pouring additional facts on them may actually deter learning. To move a student toward expert competence, the instructor must focus on the development of the student’s mental organizational structure by addressing the “why” and not just the “what” of the subject. These mental structures are a new element of a student’s thinking. As such, they must be constructed on the foundation of students’ prior thinking and experience.5,12 This prior thinking may be wrong or incorrectly applied, and hence must be explicitly examined and adequately addressed before further progress is possible. The physics education research literature can help instructors recognize and deal with particular widespread and deeply ingrained misconceptions.3,4 In summary, expert competence is likely to develop only if the student is actively thinking and the instructor can suitably monitor and guide that thinking. Our final example of useful research concerns students’ beliefs. Students’ beliefs about physics and how it is http://www.physicstoday.org learned are important.1,11 They affect motivation, approaches to learning and problem solving, and, not surprisingly, choice of major. As we noted earlier, teaching practices influence students’ beliefs, usually by making them more novice-like. Presenting mechanics in terms of general concepts and the motion of abstract items such as blocks on frictionless ramps can inadvertently teach many students that these principles do not apply to real-world objects. Assigning problems that are graded strictly on a final number, or that can be done by plugging the correct numbers into a given procedure or formula, can teach students that solving physics problems is only about memorization and coming up with a correct number—reasoning and seeing if the answer makes sense are irrelevant. The good news is that courses with rather modest changes to explicitly address student beliefs have avoided the usual negative shifts.11 Those changes include introducing the physics ideas in terms of real-world situations or devices with which the students are familiar; recasting homework and exam problems into a form in which the answer is of some obvious utility rather than an abstract number; and making reasoning, sense-making, and reflecting explicit parts of in-class activities, homework, and exams. New educational technology Utilizing principles established by educational research can greatly improve physics education. Technology can make it easier to incorporate these principles into instruction. For example, online surveys and student– faculty e-mail are rather simple ways to enhance communication, thereby helping faculty understand and better guide student thinking. Here we will discuss a couple of more novel technologies—personal electronic response systems and interactive simulations. These technologies are relatively simple and inexpensive, and we have found them to be pedagogically powerful and easy to incorporate into the standard curriculum. A variety of commercial ve...
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This note was uploaded on 12/20/2011 for the course PHYS 208 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at University of Delaware.

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