Modeling + Computation: Project-based Learning in Introductory Physics

Presented by Dr. Danny Caballero and Dr. Paul Irving
Thursday, February 19, 2015 11:30 - 1:30

NOTE ROOM CHANGE: Room 244 Natural Science

Lunch Provided

Bring your CHARGED laptop/tablet to the session if you can.

Abstract Most introductory science courses emphasize the acquisition of conceptual and procedural knowledge, but fail to prepare students to engage in the practices of science (e.g., developing and using models, constructing explanations of phenomenon). Introductory courses also tend towards ignoring the socio-cultural aspects of learning such as encouraging students to develop their science identity. This overemphasis on content learning stems from an incomplete theory of learning. We have designed a new introductory mechanics course, piloted in the fall of 2014 and offered again this semester, that engages students in science practice through the use of modeling projects. By engaging students in the authentic practices of a scientist, we aim to help students develop their science identity while they also appropriate the practices and understanding of a scientist. The projects require students to negotiate meaning in small groups, develop a shared vision for their group's approach, and employ science practices to successfully navigate their projects. The projects the groups are presented with are designed to be sufficiently complex so that students must make use of both analytical and computational techniques. In this interactive workshop, we will present the motivation for and structure of this new course including preliminary data on student performance, engagement, and identity development. In addition, workshop participants will engage in a short modeling project that demonstrates the student experience in the course, and provides an opportunity for discussing transformed teaching practices. This work was funded by LPF-CMP2 Innovation grant.

Danny Caballero is a physics education researcher who studies how tools affect student learning in physics, and the conditions and environments that support or inhibit this learning.

Danny earned his B.S. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. He worked on opto-microfluidics transport and control experiments at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he earned his M.S. in physics before shifting his research focus to physics education. Danny helped found the Georgia Tech Physics Education Research group in 2007 and earned the first PER-focused PhD from Georgia Tech in 2011 working on computational modeling instruction and practice. He moved to the University of Colorado Boulder as a postdoctoral researcher where he helped transform upper-division physics courses to more active learning environments.

Danny conducts research from the high school to the upper-division and is particularly interested in how students learn physics through their use of tools such as mathematics, computing, and language. His work employs cognitive and sociocultural theories of learning and aims to blend these perspectives to enhance physics instruction at all levels. Danny's projects range from the fine-grained (e.g., how students engage with particular mathematical tools) to the course-scale (e.g., how students learn the tools of classical mechanics) to the very broad (e.g., how do students in a massively open on-line course act like scientists?). While starting work with the Physics Education Research Lab at MSU, he continues collaborates with physics education groups at Georgia Tech and Colorado on a number of these and other projects.

Paul Irving is a physics education researcher who studies how learning environments influence student learning in explicit and hidden curriculum learning goals. Paul earned his B.S. in physics from Dublin Institute of Technology in 2005. Paul earned a PhD in physics education from the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2011 on a project that focused on how students approached their learning in a introductory physics problem-based learning course. He also helped implement both peer instruction and problem-based learning courses at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He moved to Kansas State University as a postdoctoral researcher where he conducted research in the area of identity development, specifically focused on upper-level physics students, and how they develop an identity as a professional physicists. More recently, Paul is now affiliated with Michigan State University and the CREATE for STEM institute, and is involved in a curriculum development project focused on redeveloping an introductory physics course to be more focused on the authentic practices of physics.


STEM Training - Project Based Learning in Introductory Physics from ANR Communications MSU on Vimeo.