Physics Department Seminar University of Alaska Fairbanks

J O U R N A L    C L U B

Foundations of Modern Physics Education
Agatha Light
Dept of Physics, University of Alaska Fairbanks




“To some extent science is hard because it simply is hard. That is to say, the material to be learned involves a great many concepts, some of which are very counter-intuitive…This fact is well understood by the students, the professor, and the general public. What is not as well understood are the various ways in which this already hard subject matter is made even harder and more frustrating by the pedagogy itself.”
–Eric, a physics student in a 1990 study of science education

The number of jobs in the U.S. labor force requiring training in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) have been increasing at a rate of ~5% a year for the past 15 years, while the number of bachelors degrees in STEM fields has been approximately constant for the past 30 years (data from 2004). While the rest of the labor force grows at a rate of just over 1%, a severe shortfall in workers in STEM fields has been recognized. In the field of physics, introductory undergraduate physics courses have been identified as a weak point leading to a lack of student retention in STEM areas. In the 1980s, growing dissatisfaction with science education gave rise to the science education reform movement and physics education research. Since then, a great deal of data on how students think and learn from various teaching methods has been collected. In this talk, I will discuss the history of physics education in America leading up to the reform movement. The major findings of the last 20+ years of physics education research will be discussed as well as the impact research findings have had on how physics is taught today.


Friday, 30 March 2012

Globe Room, Elvey Building

3:45 PM