Session T7: Excellence in Physics Education Award Session

(co-sponsored by the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs and the Forum on Education)

Larry Woolf, General Atomics

Excellence in Physics Education Award Talk: Development of research-based and research-validated curriculum by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington

Peter Shaffer, University of Washington

Peter Shaffer, representing the award winner, started the session by discussing the history of the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. They have been conducting research on the learning and teaching of physics, developing research-based and research-validated curricula, and have been deeply involved in preparing K-12 teachers to teach physics and physical science by inquiry. More recently, the group’s work has expanded to include topics beyond the introductory level such as thermal physics, special relativity, and quantum mechanics.

Physics by Inquiry: Deepening Understanding from Elementary Teachers to University Faculty

Jill Marshall, University of Texas, Austin

Next Jill Marshall discussed the impact of the University of Washington’s Physics by Inquiry program on the depth and detail in which it allows students to develop their understanding of topics in basic physics and reflect on that understanding. Physics by Inquiry has provided a platform for learners at all levels, from students taking their first college science course, to those with graduate degrees and teaching experience at the college level, including physics education researchers, to enhance their understanding of physics and how it is learned. In addition, by requiring students to expose their thinking, this curriculum has enabled further research into student understanding.

The Impact of the Washington Physics Education Group on the Teaching and Learning of Introductory Physics

Gary Gladding, University of Illinois

Gary Gladding then described the significant impact that the University of Washington Physics Education Group has had on physics instruction through their development of research-based instructional materials. He focused on the use of their Tutorials in Introductory Physics in introductory college-level physics classes, which were designed to target the very real conceptual difficulties that these students have with classical physics topics. He then described the implementation of these materials at a variety of institutions and their impact on student performance.