What difficulties do students learning physics typically encounter?
What new methods and curricular materials are most helpful?
What goals should we have for our students?
In short, how can we better prepare future physical scientists, life scientists,
engineers and physics teachers?
Answers are beginning to emerge owing to the efforts of physicists whose
scholarship lies in physics education research and development.
Members of the UMBC Department of Physics contribute to this effort in several
As a member of the American Physical Society-sponsored
Physics Teacher Education Coalition
we are part of a national effort to improve the education of future physics teachers. Our newly-created
BA in Physics Education
degree option serves those students who wish to contribute their talents to
this urgent need.
Undergraduate physics majors -
- with solid academic performance and an interest in teaching are
recruited to serve as learning assistants (LAs).
LAs receive ongoing training and a modest stipend to coach small groups of
introductory physics students in active learning-based discussion sections
We have performed research designed to strengthen the transfer of knowledge
and skills gained in students' study of calculus to their study of physics,
to uncover the link between students' views about what it means to learn
physics and their conceptual understanding, and to evaluate and improve
active learning strategies. Building on the work of others,
we have implemented proven reforms in the calculus-based introductory
physics sequence. These include peer instruction, interactive lecture
demonstrations, tutorials targeted at specific student difficulties,
and practicing a systematic approach to solving real-world problems.
Department members have given invited talks at national meetings of the
American Association of Physics Teachers
served on national advisory panels and received
National Science Foundation grants to improve physics education.
Students excited by the challenge of tackling important questions in
biology increasingly need to be comfortable with the concepts and tools
To that end, we have created the Living Physics Project, part of the
NIH-funded Interdisciplinary Quantitative Bioscience Program at UMBC.
Guided by the National Research Council report Bio 2010:
Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists,
we are beginning a major reform of the algebra-based introductory physics
sequence. Goals for the reformed sequence include
(1) making contact with bioscience topics at the organismic, cellular,
and molecular levels,
(2) improving student understanding of modern biological techniques, and
(3) enhancing student development of transferable skills such as
problem solving and mathematical modeling.
Faculty with Research Interests in Physics Education