The Paradigms in Physics Program at Oregon State University is an internationally reknown restructuring of the traditional upper-division curriculum to be more modern, more flexible, and more inclusive.
We study how physics experts and learners reason about physics and math topics is advanced undergraduate physics coures. The results of this primarily qualitative research informs curriculum design at several grain sizes:
Paradigms courses use active-engagement, student-centered teaching strategies with an intensive 5-week structure. The OSU faculty (including the OSUPER group) work collaborative to teach and develop these courses.
NSF DUE Grant Nos. 9653250 ($497,063), 0231194 ($99,941), 0618877 ($498,124), 0837829 ($44,563), 1023120 ($399,922), 1141330 ($124,236), 1323800 ($599,487+$49,806), 1836603 ($298,948), 1836604 ($299,282)
The Raising Physics to the Surface project is to create a set of hands-on, discovery-style, discussion-based classroom activities where students develop meaningful understandings of physical systems that depend on multiple variables.
Most physical systems depend on more than one variable. However, when solving problems about these systems, many students merely apply algebraic manipulations to memorized formulas. Students gain meaningful understandings by thinking conceptually and geometrically about the relationships between variables. During the Raising Physics activities, students develop these understandings by working with custom, dry-erasable, 3D surfaces, corresponding contour and gradient maps, and computer-based models. The activities span physics topics in classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and thermal physics.
The research components of this project will investigate the effectiveness of the activities and will advance understanding of how students reason about multivariable functions in physics using multiple representations.
NSF DUE Grant No. 1612480 ($119,217).
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.
NSF DUE Grant No. 0633752 ($149,709)
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. NOTE: In recent years, this project has been recombined with the Paradigms Project (above).
NSF DUE Grant Nos. 0088901 ($112,513) & 0231032 ($217,039).
The Paradigms group hosted a national workshop in 2014 on the current state of the upper-division physics curriculum. Roughly 50 participants were invited, representing faculty, curriculum developers, textbook authors, education researchers, and developers of assessment tools, as well as experts in professional development, adoption, connections with other disciplines, and representatives of both professional societies and funding agencies.
NSF DUE Grant No. 1256606 ($40,684); AAPT workshop organizer grant ($2500).