Physics Education Research

Physics Education Research focuses on improving the teaching of physics by understanding the cognitive mechanisms which either aid or hinder student learning, and developing pedagogical techniques to improve learning. Chandralekha Singh has led numerous studies documenting student difficulties in both introductory and advanced physics classes, and cognitive strategies for improving problem solving ability. The Singh research group has built and evaluated research-based tutorials for use in both introductory and advanced physics courses.

The group also investigates innovations that can benefit the Department's and the University's teaching mission. Some examples are the establishment of the Physics Exploration Center, where students in introductory courses can experiment independently; the installation of student response systems (or "clickers") in all four of the department's larger lecture halls, which enable the instructor to monitor student responses to questions posed during classes; and the construction of an introductory physics classroom designed to facilitate studio-style interactive teaching.

Chandralekha Singh directs the Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC), which aims to improve science teaching in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences by helping faculty developand implement courses which use research-based pedagogical techniques.The Center hosts meetings of faculty members from different departments focusing on various aspects of science pedagogy, brings speakers to campus to lead workshops about the teaching and learning of science, and offers support for specific efforts to enhance the curriculum in particular courses.

Russell Clark has studied ways to increase the effectiveness of undergraduate student laboratories, including lab experiments oriented towards health sciences students and peer review of lab reports. Matteo Broccio has been working on a transformation of the algebra-based introductory courses to a more student-centered instruction with increased focus on the physiological relevance of Physics principles. From a research perspective, he is investigating the impact of self-diagnostic instruments on performance, attitude and belief systems of students in large enrollment classes. David Nero seeks to use technology to improve physics education in large-enrollment classes. His most recent work has been in the creation of online lectures and supporting material for the introductory calculus-based physics sequence.