The 5+ Club Supported SiteThe 5+ Club Supported Site University of Central Florida: Course Reform

Successes

  • The Physics Department had several visitors who spoke about various aspects of educational reform, including John Thompson (University of Maine) and Steven Pollock (University of Colorado, Boulder), who spoke about course reforms in upper-level physics, Jack Wilson (University of Massachusetts), Michael Marder (University of Texas, Austin) and Eric Mazur (Harvard University).
  • We continue to teach eight 99-student sections of studio-based physics. Several students have expressed interest in changing to physics majors and/or pursuing teaching careers after taking these courses.
  • We continue to teach the physics pedagogy seminar.
  • We continue to improve the curriculum in our NSF TUES supported algebra-based mini-studios.
  • We offer bi-weekly pedagogy seminars for interested faculty.
  • The number of Physics faculty members interested in reforming their courses continues to grow. Ten faculty members have adopted the studio mode of instruction and another eleven have introduced some form of course reform (Peer Instruction, Interactive Lecture Demonstrations, iclickers, etc.)

Challenges

  • Graduate students would benefit from similar training as Learning Assistants to make the support offered in a course more uniform.
  • Some students are resistant to reformed courses.
  • Some faculty are not interested in teaching courses in a prescribed manner.

Sustainability

  • A 99-seat studio classroom was constructed for the Fall 2012 semester through an internal Technology Fee grant.
  • The end-of-semester Learning Assistant poster session has attracted attention from administration.
  • Course reform at the algebra-based level is supported by an NSF TUES grant.
  • Co-PI Chini is engaged in a multi-institution research project (along with PhysTEC Supported Site Georgia State University and George Washington University) to uncover best practices for algebra-based studio physics courses.

Lessons Learned

  • New faculty become interested in course reforms when exposed to both outsiders, such as physics education researchers giving colloquia, and internal data on course reforms.
  • Course reforms become more successful as more faculty come on board.
  • Not all faculty have the same level of success with the same curriculum; a variety is necessary so faculty can find curricula that fit their strengths.

Physics Pedagogy Seminar

  • We have offered the Physics Pedagogy Seminar, based on the University of Colorado, Boulder, model since Fall 2012. From the beginning, we have used the Learning Assistant Video Resources with this course. Learning Assistants can take this course for credit twice, engaging with the ideas at a deeper level in the second semester. The major change made to this course during Year 1 of our PhysTEC project was that, in place of some existing projects, Returning Learning Assistants developed and implemented a lesson for a local high school physics class. Rather than describing how their views of teaching and learning changed during the second semester, these LAs presented posters and wrote final reports about their experiences designing and teaching the lesson. Additionally, all LAs used the TLE TeachLivE™ at UCF teaching simulation to practice their formative assessment skills.

Physics Studios

  • We have offered studio-mode physics course for approximately half of our introductory physics courses since Fall 2012. During the PhysTEC project, we started offering a Learning Assistant Help Room, which particularly supports these courses as they are not supported by other university-sponsored tutoring.

Algebra-based Physics Mini-studios

  • The mini-studios have been in development since Fall 2011. Initially we used in-house designed worksheets and experiments. With support of the PhysTEC Project as well as an NSF TUES grant, we have adapted Maryland Open Source Tutorials and Minnesota Context Rich Problems for the worksheets, and we are continuing to adapt ISLE curriculum for the labs. In addition, these two sources allowed us to introduce Learning Assistants to some sections.

Thermal and Statistical Physics

  • Thermal and Statistical Physics was taught in a traditional format before the PhysTEC project. During Year 1, the instructor agreed to implement student-centered worksheets on Fridays, supported by a Learning Assistant.

Wave (Quantum) Mechanics

  • Wave Mechanics was taught in a traditional format before the PhysTEC project. During Year 1, the instructor agreed to clicker questions, recitations and additional help room hours, supported by a Learning Assistant.