integrated with professional
In this project, NSF Course Curriculum & Laboratory Improvement
grant DUE-0341447, we refine and class test open-source tutorials
(worksheets intended to guide collaborative active learning) that
instructors can customize to the needs of their students and
curricula. To help instructors make productive modifications and
implement the tutorials effectively, we hyperlink the worksheets
themselves to instructors’ guides and annotated video clips of students
using the worksheets.
For questions, or to get the beta version of our materials on DVD,
Overview of project
Rationale behind the project
Sample tutorial hyperlinked to instructors’
(Unzip the downloaded folder and click on “03 Newton 3.doc” to
get started. The video clips are not included.)
Information for class testers
(Includes list of tutorials and interactive lecture demonstration
Excellent research-based physics tutorials and
interactive lecture demonstrations already exist; the main bottleneck
to reform is implementation. So why are we developing and class testing
new materials as part of our current project? Four reasons:
1. Our worksheets are open-source, electronic
documents; instructors can adapt them to their specific needs.
2. Those worksheets are hyperlinked to
instructors' guides that include the rationale behind the various
questions, teaching tips, common student responses, and so on.
3. The instructors' guides link to annotated video
clips of students using the materials, clips that faculty and teaching
assistants can use to get a feel for the activities and to practice
"hearing" and interpreting students' reasoning and conceptions in a way
that can improve their teaching.
4. Our worksheets focus not just on conceptual
development but also on helping students become more reflective about
their learning and more sophisticated in their “epistemologies” — their
views about the what it means to learn and understand physics.
Over the past 15 years, research-based physics curricula that engage
students in “active learning” have proven successful at fostering
conceptual change. This project addresses two lingering problems
associated with reform-oriented materials:
º Implementation often goes poorly, or does not occur,
in part because professors and teaching assistants have trouble
adjusting their instructional styles to an active-learning format and
integrating the new materials into their curricula.
º Although the best implementations lead to large
conceptual gains, evidence shows students continue to hold unfavorable
views about the nature of physics knowledge and learning: they
see physics as disconnected facts and formulas, and learning as
memorizing information provided by authority.
We address both problems by building on work from two previous
projects. In one project, we developed worksheets — tutorials for
discussion section and interactive demonstrations for lecture — that
not only reproduced the conceptual gains of other research-based
materials, but also improved students’ views about physics knowledge
and learning. In a second project, we used video clips of
students engaged in active learning as a teacher-development tool;
teachers become better at listening and responding to their students’
thinking, a key element of making active learning work.
Many curriculum developers strive for “high-fidelity” implementation of
their materials. This project takes another tack for two
reasons. First, research shows that teachers modify curricula no
matter how hard developers try to prevent it. Second,
modifications can be productive if they adhere to the spirit of the
original lesson but make adjustments based on a nuanced interpretation
of students’ needs and progress. Our instructors’ guides and
annotated video clips clarify the spirit of the tutorials, and how they
can well and not-so-well, to help instructors make productive
modifications and implement the lessons effectively.
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