Rutgers University Department of Physics and Astronomy

2006-07 Handbook for Physics and Astronomy Graduate Students

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Research Programs

Physics and Astronomy Education Research

Professor Eugenia Etkina

I am an associate professor of science education in the Graduate School of Education but my training is in physics, astrophysics and pedagogy. I spent 15 years teaching physics and astronomy to high school and college students and doing research in student learning. After I received my Ph. D. in physics education from Moscow State Pedagogical University (Moscow, Russia) I joined the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. While working in a high school I developed an approach to teaching physics which mirrors processes that physicists use to construct knowledge. I did research on the effectiveness of this approach on student learning of physics concepts, development of their epistemology, and scientific abilities. Now I work in close cooperation with physics faculty to incorporate this approach into introductory physics courses. I am also the coordinator of Rutgers Physics Teacher Preparation Program. This is a unique program as it combines physics and pedagogy to prepare a new generation of physics teachers - those who not only understand physics but know how help students learn it. Rutgers University now is a national leader in physics teacher preparation. Currently I am interested in the transfer of scientific abilities that undergraduate students acquire in modified introductory physics courses (we just received an NSF grant to study this) and in the transfer of pedagogical content knowledge by physics teachers. I publish in physics education journals such as American Journal of Physics, Physics Education Research supplement to the American Journal of Physics, The Physics Teacher, and in science education research journals such as Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Science Education, etc. I chair dissertations of students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy working on Physics Education Research Projects and dissertations of students in the Graduate School of Education.

Professor George K. Horton

Our department has a long record of achievement in instruction. The textbooks "Elementary Modern Physics" and "Elementary Physics: Classical and Modern" by Richard Weidner and Robert Sells, both Professors at Rutgers, were classics in their day. In the last twenty years, I have been active in a variety of instructional projects and in PAER. Over this period I have been one of the principal participants in the creation of a successful program to help at-risk students and women to succeed in introductory physics, called extended physics for science and engineering majors. (see Holton and Horton in "The Rutgers Physics Learning Center: Reforming the Physics Course for First Year Engineering and Science Students in the Physics Teacher" 34 (3), 138-143 1996, and "Lessons Learned: A case study of an integrated way of teaching introductory physics to at-risk students at Rutgers University" by Etkina, Gibbons, Holton and Horton in the American Journal of Physics 67 (9), 810-818, 1999 and later articles). This project has recently been extended to the second year for engineering majors. Another of my projects was the creation of the Physics Learning Center, now the Math and Science Learning Center. This was followed by the introduction of mini-labs into the first year physics courses for engineering majors (see "The Minilab as a Tool in Physics Instruction" by Etkina and Horton in the Physics Teacher, 38, 136-138, 2000). Simultaneously, with colleagues Holton and Etkina, we pioneered the "discovery labs" which departed from the familiar cookbook labs of the past. Another innovation was the creation of the course "Great Ideas that Shook Physics and the World" as part of the comprehensive program to promote scientific literacy of non-science students in collaboration with colleagues in the Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics Departments. This work will appear in the International Journal of Science Education. Further, I have published a series of ten articles on various topics such as new demonstrations, physics policy, instructional innovations in the Physics Teacher. (for example, see Etkina, Holton and Horton, The Physics Teacher 36, 135-138, 1998). I have made it a practice to encourage undergraduate students to clarify pedagogical questions-several have led to published articles, e.g. Daly and Horton, The Physics Teacher 32, 306-308, 1994. All this work has been made possible by grants from the State of New Jersey, Rutgers University, The National Science Foundation, The Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education and the General Electric Foundation. This seven figure funding, and the supportive Rutgers Administration has made it possible for me to assemble one of the most distinguished PAER groups in the country including Adebaki and Suzanne Brahmia, Eugenia Etkina, Kathy Scott, and Alan Van Heuvelen, who work in concert with Professors Joel Shapiro and Mohan Kalelkar. With our weekly seminar, post-docs and graduate students we are a new and vibrant part of our department and university.

Professor Mohan Kalelkar

Professor Joel A. Shapiro

Joel Shapiro has long been interested in issues of Physics Education. In the early '70s, along with Prof. Watts, he developed a Keller plan self-paced course (323-324). He has worked on many tools for using computers for assessment and pedagogy. In the mid 1990s, he designed and built the university's first "Student Response System", and since that time he has been working on computer based tutorial systems. He is responsible for a major component of the Andes2 homework tutorial system, and is collaborating with computer scientists on more flexible systems to handle algebraic interaction with physics students.

Professor Alan van Heuvelen

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Revised September, 2006