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Research in Physics Education

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We are engaged in a number of nationally recognized projects in curriculum development/physics education research.

For more information about our relationship with other education research groups at Oregon State, please visit the websites for the Center for Research in Lifelong STEM Learning and for the ESTEME (Enhancing STEM Education) research cluster.

Paradigms in Physics

Corinne Manogue
corinne@physics.oregonstate.edu     (541) 737-1695    WNGR 493

Tevian Dray
tevian@math.oregonstate.edu     (541) 737-5159    KIDDER 298A

Liz Gire
liz.gire@oregonstate.edu     (541) 737-1692    WNGR 367

David H. McIntyre
mcintyre@ucs.orst.edu    (541) 737-1696   WNGR 463

Emily van Zee
Emily.vanZee@science.oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-1880    WNGR 267

Rabindra Bajracharya
bajrachr@science.oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-6080    WNGR 491

David Roundy
roundyd@physics.oregonstate.edu    (541) 250-0137   WNGR 401B

Eric Weber
eric.weber@oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-1305   FURM 304L

The Paradigms in Physics Program at Oregon State University is a restructuring of the traditional upper-division curriculum to be more modern, more flexible, and more inclusive. The focus of our current NSF-grant is to design materials to support faculty teaching more traditional courses who may wish to experiment with one or more pieces of our successful curriculum, be it a single activity or an entire course. Four main strands have been identified:

  1. New content: The PIs are developing two new textbooks: one for quantum mechanics and one for vector calculus that emphasize their innovative approach to these topics, while encouraging, but not requiring, the use of active engagement.
  2. Case studies: The PIs are designing a new website to provide the information necessary for successful adoption of one or more of their activities, showing how to combine lectures and active engagement in a coherent way.
  3. Community of scholars: The PIs will host a small number of visitors who will be immersed in, and contribute to, the entire Paradigms package.
  4. Education Research: The PIs are doing research into students’ ability to reason harmonically and metacognitively, and into how these capabilities are affected by Paradigms curricular materials.

The Vector Calculus Bridge Project

Tevian Dray
tevian@math.oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-5159    KIDDER 298A

Corinne Manogue
corinne@physics.oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-1695    WNGR 493

There is a "vector calculus gap" between the way vector calculus is usually taught by mathematicians and the way it is used by other scientists. This material is essential for physicists and some engineers due to its central role in the description of electricity and magnetism. The goals of this long-term project to understand this gap and to develop curricular materials to help bridge it from both the mathematics and physics sides. For more information, see the Vector Calculus Bridge Project Homepage

Teachers that Integrate Science and Literacy Learning

Emily van Zee
Emily.vanZee@science.oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-1880    WNGR 267

Henri Jansen
physics.chair@science.oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-1668    WNGR 303

Physics 111, Inquiring into Physical Phenomena, is a course for prospective early childhood, elementary, and middle school teachers in which participants learn how to enhance literacy learning as they engage students in inquiries into physical phenomena. Emphasis is on questioning, predicting, exploring, and discussing what one thinks and why. The course meets in a laboratory for 2.5 hours, twice a week, for ten weeks. A wiki at  http://physics.oregonstate.edu/coursewikis/ph111/doku.php provides information about instructional strategies, activities, a day-by-day course summary, and links to papers and presentations. A student summary of the course was, “This class has opened up my eyes to the wonder that science brings... We were given opportunities to work in groups and bounce ideas off of one another constantly, but never given the answer to a problem…We were able to see these everyday phenomena happen before our eyes and then figure out why it was occurring based on what we already knew, what we could test and experiment, and what ideas would develop as we brainstormed...” This project was partially supported by National Science Foundation grant No. 0633752-DUE, Integrating Physics and Literacy Learning in a Physics Course for Elementary and Middle School Teachers, Henri Jansen, PI, Emily van Zee, CoPI, Department of Physics

Lower-division Course Reform

Henri Jansen
physics.chair@science.oregonstate.edu    (541) 737-1668    WNGR 303

The Physics Department has embarked on a project to reform the teaching of our lower-division, large-enrollment courses. We are using a team approach involving faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants.  

This project currently involves:

  1. classroom renovations and course restructuring
  2. curriculum development
  3. assessing student learning and attitudes in the reformed classes
  4. faculty development and studying faculty discourse within the classroom
  5. TA training and development

An outcome of this focus has been working with a team of faculty from OSU and local community colleges to build a discourse community to share and develop effective activities and to share PCK through the discourse that we have about the course content.