New Faculty Training Conference for Two-Year College Physics Faculty
March 6-8, 2008 at Delta College, University Center, MI
Scott Schultz, Delta College, University Center, MI
Todd Leif, Cloud County Community, Concordia, KS
Sherry Savrda, Seminole Community College, Sanford, FL
Dwain Desbien, Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale AZ
Tom O’Kuma, Lee College, Baytown, TX
This conference is designed to equip new faculty members with knowledge of active learning
techniques that are both based on Physics Education Research (PER) and that have been
successfully implemented at two-year colleges across the country. Led by experienced two-year
college physics instructors, this conference will empower a new faculty member as they embark on
the important mission of developing critical thinking skills in their students and developing the
future technological workforce for this country.
The conference will start with a focus on Physics Education Research and the data that show
traditional lecture-based physics classes result in relatively small gains in student conceptual
understanding of the fundamental concepts of physics. Much of this will take place through an
online discussion of journal articles related to the topic during January and February.
Consequently, conference participants will be ready for the actual conference as they will
understand why there is a need to engage students at a higher cognitive level.
At the conference, participants will be exposed to three major pedagogical initiatives in introductory
physics that have improved student comprehension: Microcomputer-Based Labs (MBL),
Introductory College Physics/Twenty First Century (ICP/21), and Instructional Strategies in
Introductory Physics (discourse management/TIPERS). Based on their exposure the first day,
participants will choose two of these areas to further explore over the next two days.
Recent PER data indicates microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) tools coupled with an activity-
based physics approach provides a better method of teaching physics by enabling the
teaching/learning process to build on students’ direct experiences in the physics
classroom/laboratory or studio. These MBL tools give students immediate feedback by presenting
data graphically in a manner that can be easily and quickly understood. The ease of data collection
and presentation afforded by these tools invites students to ask, discuss, and answer their own
questions. Thus, students acquire an increased competence in the use and interpretation of graphs as
well as a better understanding of the physical relationships, principles, and concepts that underlie
their experiences. In this hands-on workshop, participants will work in areas involving force, one-
dimensional linear motion, rotation, sound, heat, electricity, magnetism, nuclear radiation, and light.
The ICP/21 curriculum was written with the technical (engineering and medical) student in mind.
Each participant will work through selected modules in this new curricula that was developed by a
group of two-year college physics professors led by Alexander Dickison of Seminole Community
College in Sanford, Florida; Marvin Nelson of Green River Community College in Auburn,
Washington; Pearly Cunningham of Community College of Alleghany County in West Mifflin,
Pennsylvania; and Sherry Savrda of Seminole Community College.
Each ICP/21 module uses a series of learning cycles and incorporates many of the teaching
techniques, developed by others, that are based on physics education research. Throughout the
problem sets and examples in the modules, ICP/21 uses applications found in industry and
medicine. The modular CD curriculum allows TYC instructors the opportunity to choose several
modules from the curricula that are particularly germane for their students. Each module is activity-
based and utilizes a variety of tools to better motivate the student in the learning of key physics
The Instructional Strategies in Introductory Physics presents ways that instructors can approach
teaching physics. Participants will learn selected strategies and practice applying them to physical
situations. Essential to creating a useful strategy is to have quality-modeling tools. As physicists we
have been exposed to numerous modeling tools (equations, free-body diagrams, motion diagrams,
etc.). This workshop will introduce new modeling tools and demonstrate how to use existing tools
in more robust ways. Another essential component of these strategies is classroom management.
Participants will experience a classroom management technique called modeling discourse
management. While this classroom management style was created for a modeling curriculum, it
can also be used with most PER based activities or curriculum. Modeling discourse management is
an attempt to improve student-student interactions, student-instructor interactions, and classroom
At the end of the conference, participants will present rough drafts of material they have
adapted/created during the three days at Delta College to use back at their home institutions. With
feedback from the group, participants will revise and implement these techniques over the next 15
months. The discussion board will be available for continued networking and collaboration among
participants during this time. We will have a follow-up meeting the day before the start of the
National Summer Meeting for the American Association of Physics Teachers. Both meetings are in
Ann Arbor, MI in July, 2009.
Through this 16 month immersion in methods to actively engage students in introductory physics,
new instructors will be collaboratively working with their peers from across the country to build a
successful physics program at their home institutions. This should lay the groundwork for a long
and productive career for the instructor and positively impact what takes place in the classroom as
they prepare students for the workforce and lifelong learning. This initial investment in a new
faculty member has the potential to produce large gains in student comprehension for many years.
*Sponsored by: ATE Program for Physics Faculty ( a National Science Foundation project), Delta College,
Lee College, Estrella Mountain Community College, and the American Association of Physics Teachers
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