Proceedings of the 2002 Physics Education Research Conference

I. Table of contents (to be assembled by printer)

II. Preface (html format)

III. Meeting Program in Mac-Stuffed format.

IV. Invited Papers

Limitations in predicting student performance on standardized tests(Word, .pdf)
Michael Wittmann

The Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX) describes student attitudes and expectations toward learning, and might be used to predict normalized gains on tests such as the Force and Motion Concept Evaluation (FMCE). These predictions are incomplete, though, due to limitations of the standardized tests themselves. I illustrate the problems involved in using the MPEX to predict productive attitudes toward learning physics by focusing on two students, both with seemingly appropriate expectations toward learning. While one had high normalized gains, the other did not, due to "false favorable" responses on the MPEX.

Designing Diagnostic Assessments (Word)
Pamela A. Kraus and Jim Minstrell

In this paper we describe the process of creating diagnostic assessments to assist teachers in formatively assessing their students. The process begins with the learning targets and ends with the creation of web-delivered sets of questions designed to diagnose students' facets of thinking. Early analysis from our first year of implementation indicates students are reading and thinking about the questions in their assignment. In addition, we are finding that for certain topics students' facets of thinking are highly context dependent.

Using qualitative methods to make and support claims in physics education research (Word)
Cody Sandifer and Andy Johnson

This session was designed to stimulate conversations about the use of qualitative methods in physics education research. To start the session, we presented a general overview of qualitative research. Then, to provide a context for discussion, we conducted a mini research activity; in this activity, we introduced data (interview, video transcripts, and student work) from a university physics course for preservice teachers. Participants were given the task of examining the data and deciding whether a particular claim was sufficiently supported by the data. A rich discussion ensued, in which many research-related issues were raised. These issues, which we suggest might serve as topics of discussion for future sessions, are listed and briefly editorialized at the end of this paper.
Issues Related to Data Analysis and Quantitative Methods in PER (Word, .pdf)
David Meltzer

There are a number of issues that always arise, implicitly or explicitly, when conducting quantitative research and carrying out data analysis in Physics Education Research. (Most are relevant for qualitative research as well.)

Time to change (Word)
Eugenia Etkina

The paper describes alternative formative assessment techniques and their implementation in an introductory physics course. These techniques help students develop some abilities that are used by scientists and engineers: reflection on the knowledge construction, question posing, statement evaluation, and convincing others in the viability of their knowledge.

V. Contributed, Peer-reviewed papers (listed by author's last name)

Students Learning Problem Solving in Introductory Physics - Forming an Initial Hypothesis of Instructors' Beliefs (Word, .pdf)
Charles Henderson, Kenneth Heller, Patricia Heller, Vince H. Kuo and Edit Yerushalmi

Based on an analysis of structured interviews with 6 research university physics faculty members, this paper presents our initial hypothesis of instructors' beliefs about how their students learn to solve problems in an introductory physics course. The hypothesis shows that these instructors have very general beliefs about the process of student learning that do not include many details about actual learning mechanisms.

Teaching Students Problem Solving in Introductory Physics - Forming an Initial Hypothesis of Instructors' Beliefs(Word, .pdf)
Vince H. Kuo, Kenneth Heller, Patricia Heller, Charles Henderson and Edit Yerushalmi

This paper presents an initial hypothesis of instructors' beliefs about their role in helping students learn to solve problems in an introductory calculus-based physics course. Instructors see their teaching role as primarily providing resources and making suggestions, with little mentioning of how they influence the students to use the resources or follow the suggestions.

The challenge of listening: The effect of researcher agenda on data collection and interpretation (Word, .pdf)
Rachel Scherr and Michael Wittmann

A researcher's interests dictate which student statements in a clinical interview are considered to constitute data. To the extent that our research agendas are unexamined, they may control our attention inappropriately, limiting the effectiveness of both data collection and data interpretation. We describe an interview in which the interviewer paid nearly exclusive attention to the student's conceptual understanding of charge flow, thereby missing information about, for example, her epistemological frame. We also describe a later analysis of the same interview, in which our first reactions to the interview say more about our agendas as researchers than about the character of the interview itself.

Student epistemological mode constraining researcher access to student thinking: An example from an interview on charge flow(Word, .pdf)
Michael Wittmann and Rachel Scherr

A student's guiding epistemological mode (be it knowledge as memorized information, knowledge from authority, or knowledge as fabricated stuff) may constrain that student from reasoning in productive ways while also shaping the inferences a researcher can make about how that student reasons about a particular phenomenon. We discuss both cases in the context of an individual student interview on charge flow in wires. In the first part of the interview, her focus on memorized knowledge prevents the researcher from learning about her detailed reasoning about current. In the second part of the interview, her focus on constructed knowledge provides the researcher with a picture of her reasoning about the physical mechanisms of charge flow.

Implications of Distributed Cognition for PER (Word, .pdf)
Tom Foster

Cognitive Science has influenced physics education research. However, perhaps the community has more to learn from cognitive science. This article will introduce the ``radical'' notion of distributed cognition, which posits that our surroundings and tools have intelligence. After the introduction of this notion, the article will then discuss a few implications for physics education research.

Developing the Lunar Phases Concept Inventory(Word, .pdf)
Rebecca Lindell

The Lunar Phases Concept Inventory (LPCI) was developed to aid instructors in assessing students' mental models of lunar phases. Based upon an in-depth qualitative investigation of students' initial models of lunar phases, this multiple-choice inventory was designed to take advantage of the innovative model analysis theory [] to probe the different dimensions of students' mental models of lunar phases. The development of this inventory will be discussed, as well as the processes involved in establishing its reliability and validity.

Do students conceptualize energy as a material substance? (Word
Michael Loverude

On written problems and in interviews, some students predict mass changes associated with energy transfers. Explanations suggest that while some students may conceptualize energy as a substance with mass and volume, this idea is not consistently applied.

Identifying students' models of sound propagation(Word
Zdeslav Hrepic, Dean Zollman and Sanjay Rebello

We investigated students' mental models of sound propagation in introductory physics classes. In addition to the scientifically accepted wave model, students used the "entity" model. In this model sound is a self-standing entity, different from the medium and propagating through it. All other observed alternative models are composed of entity and wave ingredients, but at the same time they are distinct from each of the constituent models. We called these models "hybrid" models. We will discuss how students use these models in various contexts before and after instruction.

A summary of students' mental models and their applications in contexts pertaining to Newton's II law (Word)
Salomon F. Itza-Ortiz and N. Sanjay Rebello

We investigated students' use of Newton's II law in mechanics and electricity and magnetism contexts. We interviewed 16 students in a two-semester calculus-based physics course. We found students' answers are consistent with two principal mental models and a combination of these two. We explore whether the students who use Newton's Second Law in mechanics contexts continue to do so in electricity and magnetism.

Effectiveness of group interaction on conceptual standardized test performance (postscript
Chandralekha Singh

I analyze the effectiveness of working in pairs on the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism test in a calculus-based introductory physics course. Students who collaborated with a peer showed significantly larger normalized gain on individual testing after the group work than those who did not collaborate. Peer collaboration also shows evidence for co-construction. We discuss the effect of pairing students with different individual achievements.

On the Study of Student Use of Meta-Resources in Learning Quantum Mechanics (Word, .pdf)
Keith Oliver and Lei Bao

In our research on student use of resources in learning quantum mechanics, we have begun to realize that a student often needs to make judgments among competing ideas. We start to see the potential to develop a new category of resources, meta-resources, to model the views and beliefs as well as meta-cognitive processes that students use in making judgments. Examples from student interviews are discussed as initial evidence for a larger scale investigation toward this area.

Gender, Math and the FCI (Word)
Laura McCullough

Does math background interact with gender on FCI scores? A sample of 300 non-physics students were given one of two versions of the Force Concept Inventory, along with a brief demographic questionnaire. This paper examines how math background may interact with gender on this assessment instrument. The trends suggest a preliminary conclusion that math preparation has little effect on FCI score.

Implementing Tutorials in Introductory Physics at an Inner-City University in Chicago (Word, .pdf)
Mel Sabella

Tutorials in Introductory Physics are widely used and have proven to be effective in promoting student understanding for many students in introductory physics. Despite this, there are currently few research results that document their effectiveness at inner-city schools in which students may have weak preparation in mathematics and reading. In this paper we discuss our preliminary efforts in implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of these materials for students at an inner-city university located on the south side of Chicago.

Towards a model-based diagnostic instrument in electricity and magnetism - an example (Word.pdf)
Rasil Warnakulasooriya and Lei Bao

The identification of the contextual elements of a question is important. Based on our studies on the possible student mental models on certain concepts in electricity and magnetism, a set of multiple-choice questions were developed and tested. Examples of test questions and students' responses on one concept topic are discussed in detail. It is implied that measurement instruments developed based on a good understanding of the interactive relations between context features and the possible mental models can help identify important aspects of students' knowledge that are not available with current assessment tools.

The effect of question order on responses to multiple-choice questions (Word)
Kara Gray, Sanjay Rebello and Dean Zollman

Educators and researchers often make the assumption that the order of test or survey questions is unimportant. Is this assumption valid? This study investigates how the order of two related FCI questions (#13 and 14) affects students' responses. This study also investigates the effect an unrelated FCI question (#23) has on answers to the above problems. Four versions of a survey were administered before and after instruction to 243 students taking an algebra-based physics class. Versions 1 and 2 of the survey included the related physics questions in opposite order. Versions 3 and 4 included the unrelated physics question and one of the above questions. Student responses for the four versions were compared for both the pre- and post-instruction surveys.

Secondary students's cognitive process for the line graph from graph components(Word)
Tae-Sun Kim and Beom-Ki Kim

Line graphs are frequently used to communicate data and basic concepts in classroom activities; unfortunately, little has been reported concerning the students' cognitive process regarding line graphs. This study was intended to investigate such cognitive process empirically. We developed a computer program to determine the order readers glance the components of a line graph. We analyzed the glancing order of each component. The results help us identify secondary students' cognitive process for line graph.

Effectiveness of Abridged Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (Word)
Timothy French and Karen Cummings

An experiment designed to investigate an abridged Interactive Lecture Demonstration (ILD)[1] protocol was performed in the Studio Physics I course[2] at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) during the spring of 2002. Approximately 300 students in several different sections of the course were divided into two groups. Both groups witnessed an entire Newton's Third Law ILD series. However, one group was asked for only a prediction before viewing each demonstration. The other group was prompted to engage in all eight steps of the suggested ILD procedure. A detailed discussion of the experiment, learning gains for the two groups as measured with the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE), and implications for instruction are presented.

Student Textbook Use in Introductory Physics ( Word)
Karen Cummings, Timothy French and Patrick J Cooney

This article reports on a two part study of extent to which students use a textbook in calculus-based introductory physics courses for scientists and engineers. The first aspect of the study is an investigation of how the placement of worked examples influences student use of the textbook. The second aspect studied is how course assignments can be used to encourage students to read the textbook.

Context Map: A method to represent the interactions between students' learning and multiple context factors ( Word, .pdf)
Gyoungho Lee and Lei Bao

In previous research, researchers have identified a wide range of context factors that could affect student learning, either independently or in combination. However, it is less clear how specific context factors may affect student learning or interact among themselves. To investigate this issue, we developed a tool called context map that provides a graphical representation of the effects and interactions of multiple context factors. We will show examples and discuss the implications of this method for research and instruction.

VI. Contributed non-peer-reviewed papers

Factors Influencing Middle School Students' Sense-Making Discussions during their Small-Group Investigations of Force/Motion (Word)
Cody Sandifer

This study investigated small-group discussions in an inquiry-based middle school science classroom. The purpose of the study was to determine the group and individual factors that provide support (or not) for students' sense-making discussions. To do this, two groups were videotaped during the Interactions and Motion unit from the Constructing Ideas in Physical Science curriculum. A six-component framework was used to identify and categorize instances of sense-making: predicting; clarifying facts; describing and explaining a phenomenon or experimental result; defining, describing, clarifying, and connecting scientific concepts, procedures, processes, and representations; testing knowledge compatibility; and making requests for any of the above. Analysis revealed that there were differences in sense-making discussion across both groups and individual students. Differences across groups are explained in terms of group obligations and expectations, collaboration, and leadership. Differences across students are explained in terms of learning and social goals, science interest, work preferences, and ability.

Immediate, Informative Feedback Using a New Homework System (Word)
Homeyra Sadaghiani and Lei Bao

Students often complain about the traditional homework system's inefficiency and the lack of resources during problem solving sessions. The Physics Education Research Group at The Ohio State University is exploring a new homework system for introductory physics courses, in which students are given the solutions to their assignments before the due date. Each homework problem is also labeled with A, B or C to show the difficulty level as an additional feedback for students to evaluate their progress. We will report the preliminary outcomes and effectiveness of this new system.

Quantitative Demonstration and Qualitative Demonstration (Word, .pdf)
Jina Kim, Hyukjoon Choi, Jaesool Kwon

The purpose of this study was to understand middle school students' cognitive conflict levels when they were confronted with anomalous situations. The anomalous situations were created by two different methods; quantitative and qualitative demonstrations. In this research, two physics contexts, mechanics and electricity were used. In each context, two test items, one for quantitative demonstration and the other for qualitative demonstration were given to the students after a pretest. To measure the cognitive conflict levels, a Cognitive Conflict Levels Test (CCLT) developed by Lee et al. (1999) was used.

VII. Corrected papers from last year

Conceptual Development and Context: How Do They Relate? (Word)
Valerie Otero

Abstract: This paper combines results from a larger research study that focuses on both cognitive and social aspects of learning (Otero, 2001). The theoretical perspective used is distributed cognition (Hutchins, 1995), in which students, students interacting with tools (such as laboratory apparatus and computer simulators), and students interacting with others and with tools are considered a cognitive system that generates learning. According to this perspective, each element of the system contributes to the cognitive product by sharing part of the cognitive load associated with a task. The unit of analysis of this paper is a group of three students working with tools, although results from a study where the unit of analysis was the single student are also used.

VIII. Index of all authors (not just first author), to be assembled by printer