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2011 AAPT Summer Meeting
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Sessions and Events w/Abstracts

Date: Wednesday, August 03

 

Total Number of Records Found: 12

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Introductory Courses
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 8:00AM - 10:00AM
  Presider: John Griffith,
  Co-Presiders(s): None
  Equipment: N/A
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FF01:   

The Law of Refraction without Trigonometry: Beaten to it by Descartes!
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 8:00AM - 8:10AM
  Author: David Schuster, Western Michigan University
269 387-5844, david.schuster@wmich.edu
  Co-Author(s): Betty Adams, Adriana Undreiu
  Abstract: Investigating and discovering a law for refraction is potentially an ideal activity for inquiry-based physics. However, the law of refraction involves sine functions; this complicates an empirical search for a law (as it did historically) and may also seem to preclude it for students with no trigonometry. Wanting a guided-discovery approach nonetheless, we "invented" a geometrical representation: incident and refracted ray directions can be specified not only by angle but by semi-chords in a reference circle. This proves very successful: students discover that various possible relationships, such as angle ratios, are initially promising but do not work at large angles; and they finally arrive at a simple and visually elegant law: the ratio of semi-chords for incident and refracted rays is constant. We then found that we had been beaten to this form of the law by nearly 400 years, by Descartes among others! Thus in the case of refraction, exemplary inquiry pedagogy has a counterpart in history. Note that the approach also reveals the underlying meaning of sine functions and a reason why trigonometry was invented. Students then go on to use the semi-chord representation to solve refraction problems by geometrical construction.
  Footnotes: None
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FF02:   

Discovering the Law of Refraction
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 8:10AM - 8:20AM
  Author: Adriana Undreiu, University of Virginia's College at Wise
(276) 328-0203, au8e@uvawise.edu
  Co-Author(s): Betty Adams, David Schuster
  Abstract: Refraction can serve as a wonderful example of a guided-discovery approach to a physics topic. Yet many textbook treatments remain the antithesis of this, despite the fact that physics is more than just a body of knowledge. Our inquiry-based approach involves exploring refraction behavior and tracing rays, then testing for possible relationships between incident and refracted ray directions, seeking a law that works at all angles. (A semi-chord representation for ray directions makes the task easier and less abstract). If a course has no lab, students still use graphic ray-direction data to seek a law, as a valuable inductive discovery problem. Note that conventional problems are purely deductive, missing an important facet of real science. We will contrast the approach, both epistemologically and pedagogically, with direct didactic presentations common in textbooks. Refraction has proved to be one of the most successful inquiry-based topics in our course for prospective teachers, for learning both the physics and the nature of scientific inquiry.
  Footnotes: Will be presented by Betty Adams.
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FF03:   

Characterizing Iconic Problems of the Introductory Physics Course
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 8:20AM - 8:30AM
  Author: Juan R. Burciaga
Dept of Physics & Astronomy Denison University
740 587-5665, burciagaj@denison.edu
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: The introductory physics course has a backbone of problems that form the basis of future study, that is problems that physics students see again and again throughout their study of physics, each time approaching a given problem in greater depth and complexity. Characteristics of these iconic problems may offer insight into some of the "habits of mind" employed by physicists as they approach problem solving in the discipline and perhaps shed some light on the intractable nature of the curriculum. The paper reports on a census of the iconic problems from the introductory sequence and identifying the characteristics that make these problems valuable to the physics discipline and the physics curriculum.
  Footnotes: None
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FF04:   

Measurements of Students' Performance on Computational Exercises in Introductory Mechanics
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 8:30AM - 8:40AM
  Author: Marcos D. Caballero, Georgia Institute of Technology
770-827-3185, caballero@gatech.edu
  Co-Author(s): Matthew A. Kohlmyer, Michael F Schatz
  Abstract: The impact of laboratory and homework exercises on the development of computational thinking is evaluated using a proctored end-of-course computational exercise. We present the motivation for and development of this proctored assignment, an analysis of erroneous student code, and the implications for teaching computation to introductory physics students.
  Footnotes: None
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FF06:   

The Answer Is in the Back of the Book
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 8:50AM - 9:00AM
  Author: Stephanie A. Magleby, Brigham Young University
8014228319, sam25@physics.byu.edu
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: One plus one is three; because three is the answer in the back of the book. Sound familiar? We have seen increased instances of this kind of "wishful math" in our undergraduate physics and engineering courses. In this talk I will discuss the pedagogical pros and cons of having the answer readily available in the back of the book. Also, we discuss different teaching and grading techniques to counteract this "creative math" trend.
  Footnotes: None
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FF07:   

Reforming Undergraduate Course for Engineering/Physics Majors: Factors Influencing Students' Performance
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 9:00AM - 9:10AM
  Author: Deepika Menon, University of Missouri
573-529-4707, dm2qc@mail.mizzou.edu
  Co-Author(s): Karen King
  Abstract: There has been emphasis on reforming traditional undergraduate physics courses for science/engineering majors. This study was conducted with 273 undergraduate students, enrolled in calculus-based course for physics majors at a large Midwestern University. The focus was to understand the factors that influence students' performance within the course. The course has weekly 2½ hours of lecture, 2½ hours of laboratory, and a small group recitation section focusing on problem solving. Students are assigned weekly online homework and pop-up quizzes (counts towards attendance). Regression analysis shows that students' average exam score is neither influenced by gender nor their major (engineering/physics/other sciences). However, students' average exam score is highly significant with their lab score, pop quizzes, and online assignments. Findings of the study would help science faculty design courses for science/engineering majors with emphasis on factors that strongly contribute towards their average grade. Reform-based courses would further help reduce drop outs, providing "preparatory classes" for students at risk.
  Footnotes: None
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FF08:   

Computer Simulation vs. Demonstration in the Introductory Physics Lecture
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 9:10AM - 9:20AM
  Author: Monica Pierri-Galvao, Marywood University
570-348-6211, mpierrigalvao@marywood.edu
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: Students today belong to a computer generation. They grew up playing video games and using computers for all their learning and entertainment needs. In view of this new student profile, it is worth asking the question if learning can be enhanced by replacing traditional demos with computer simulations in the lecture setting. To investigate this issue, we replaced four demonstrations with simulations in an introductory physics course and compared the learning outcomes with a pre- and post-test.
  Footnotes: None
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FF09:   

Student Difficulties Using Graphs Required for a Materials Science Course
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 9:20AM - 9:30AM
  Author: Rebecca J. Rosenblatt, The Ohio State University
614-460-9502, rosenblatt.rebecca@gmail.com
  Co-Author(s): Andrew Heckler
  Abstract: We report on a number of student difficulties with standard graphs and diagrams used in an university-level introductory materials science and engineering course. We investigated student understanding of a variety of graphs and diagrams including atomic bonding potential energy graphs, material concentration and diffusion graphs, stress-stain plots, and phase diagrams. Some of the difficulties with graphs are similar to those previously found in studies of introductory physics topics, such as students confounding slope with height and the failure to attend to the axis labels. However, we have identified a number of other difficulties specific to the type of graph or diagram used. For example, many students have difficulties both using the boundaries of an alloy phase diagram to derive information about the microstructure of the alloy and understanding the physical meaning of the boundaries between phases. We also report on the effectiveness of some graph activities implemented in recitation.
  Footnotes: None
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FF10:   

Tracking Student Focus During Lectures
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 9:30AM - 9:40AM
  Author: David Rosengrant, Kennesaw State University
678 797 2482, drosengr@kennesaw.edu
  Co-Author(s): Doug Hearrington
  Abstract: This study investigates the gaze patterns of undergraduate college students attending a lecture-based physics class to better understand the relationships between gaze and focus patterns and student attention during class. The investigators used a new eye-tracking product, Tobii Glasses with infrared markers, which eliminate the need for subjects to focus on a computer screen or carry around a backpack-sized recording device, thus enabling a broader range of research questions to be investigated. This investigation includes when, for how long, and what students focus on in the classroom (i.e. demonstrations, instructor, notes, board work, and presentations) during a normal lecture. After the lectures, most subjects attended an interview at which they were shown part of their video of their gaze patterns and were asked to reflect on their thinking and attention. We report on the subjects as a whole and then in subgroups based upon grades and specific courses.
  Footnotes: None
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FF11:   

Fostering Computational Thinking: Computer Modeling Homework in Introductory Mechanics
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 9:40AM - 9:50AM
  Author: Michael F. Schatz, Georgia Institute of Technology
(678) 500-9133, michael.schatz@physics.gatech.edu
  Co-Author(s): Marcos D. Caballero, John B Burk, Matthew A Kohlmyer
  Abstract: Introductory physics courses typically fail to provide students with significant opportunities to use a computer to solve science and engineering problems. We present an overview of recent work to develop laboratory and homework exercises on numerical modeling, simulation, and visualization for students in introductory mechanics in both high school and large enrollment university courses.
  Footnotes: None
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FF12:   

The Educational Pitfalls of 'Plug-In' Physics
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.03
  Time: 9:50AM - 10:00AM
  Author: Hiro Shimoyama, The University of Southern Mississippi
601-307-7255, hironori.shimoyama@usm.edu
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: In the field of physics teaching and learning, university students' performance on exams sometimes does not effectively indicate their understanding. Namely, due to ill-conceived approaches to academic tasks, some students can obtain a higher score without actually learning scientific concepts. One typical approach is so called "plug-in" physics, by which students focus on only the values and related formulas. From an instructor's point of view, it is often difficult to identify this problem. Although this method may enable students to obtain "correct" answers, such students do not necessarily acquire the basic principles of physics and they cannot deal with certain types of problems in authentic "real world" contexts. This talk depicts some real examples of "plug-in" physics and explores possible solutions to this widespread problem, including the requirement of partial and sequential answers and use of visual stimuli-based problems in the design of assessments.
  Footnotes: None
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