Physics Efficacy

Designing a New Experience for Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics: Pre-Course Assessments Target Knowledge Gaps

In 2014, the Cengage Learning Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics Teams set out to better understand the unmet needs of students and instructors. We interviewed, observed, surveyed, conducted usability tests, and met with thousands of students and instructors from around the country. Along the way we developed a deeper appreciation and understanding of how quantitative courses are taught and learned, the main challenges that students and instructors typically encounter, and how technology is used to accomplish course outcomes. Our initial research revealed that today’s instructors and students in math, statistics, and physics demand more from technology than they did 20 Read More…

Closing the Gap to Conceptual Understanding

Insights from the 2015 American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) conference

In an effort to better understand the needs and challenges of Physics instructors, Cengage Learning conducted research with attendees of the 2015 American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) conference. In addition to needs and challenges, the research was designed to understand how instructors are using technology as well as how it has impacted their style of teaching. A total of 12 AAPT attendees were interviewed. The participants taught all levels of Physics and represented a wide variety of 2- and 4-year institutions. The interviews revealed that Physics instructors are struggling with building critical thinking skills with students, but believe that technology can aid in increasing student engagement.

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Engaging Physics Students to Go Beyond the Quantitative

For many physics instructors, maintaining motivation and building engagement to better support students with various learning challenges can be difficult. Students often view physics as a series of unrelated facts, concepts, and equations that have little or no bearing on their everyday lives. This disconnect can often lead to disengagement and lack of motivation. Additional common student learning challenges include: difficulty connecting  mathematical formalism and physics
concepts, assembling diverse concepts, and overcoming common preconceptions (or misconceptions).

Physics education research (PER) suggests that by addressing student preconceptions and focusing on conceptual learning, students will achieve a much deeper understanding. Students who connect physics to the real world and confront preconceptions will be better engaged and more equipped to build the necessary conceptual framework to achieve better learning outcomes.
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