Travel Grant 2014-15: Jeffrey Phillips

Jeffrey Phillips, Physics

Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers
January 3-6, 2015
San Diego, CA

Nature/Type of the Event

AAPT National Meetings are the largest conferences for high school and university physics teachers. Each meeting attracts well over 1,000 teachers who discuss classroom strategies, student activities and the latest in educational research.

Relevance of the Event for Applicant's Teaching and LMU Community, the Applicant's Involvement in the Event, and Expected Learning or Outcome

It will have been three years since a National AAPT meeting was in California. This proximity creates a "can't miss" opportunity to learn about innovative pedagogies and new activities and experiments for students. Given the large size of the meetings there is a wide variety of topics that will be presented. For example, there are sessions planned on educational technology (creation of custom mobile applications, MOOCs, social networks). There are also several that promise to examine connections with, and integration of, ideas from other disciplines. Because most physics courses, including those taught at LMU, are geared for students majoring outside of physics, incorporating ideas and methods from other disciplines is vital for the health and effectiveness of those courses. There are sessions that will focus on assessment and findings from education research. Other sessions will discuss how to decrease stereotype threat and incorporate metacognition into the classroom. There are over sixty sessions planned for the meeting, so the breadth of topics extends even further than this sampling. Attending these sessions will allow me to learn many new ideas that can be brought back to LMU to improve the learning experience for our students.

Travel Report

Thanks to the CTE Travel Grant I was able to attend the Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in San Diego . Despite the proximal location, this was major meeting with attendees from around the world. In all, there were over 700 physics teachers and education researchers at this four-day meeting. There were over sixty sessions (plus numerous workshops), which ranged from teachers sharing their classroom and laboratory activities to researchers discussing the latest findings from physics education research and related fields. With this breadth, there were many topics that were of relevance to my classes and our department.

There were several sessions devoted to teaching introductory physics for life science majors (IPLS). (At LMU this course would be our Physics 253-254 sequence.) Teachers shared some of the resources that they have created that aim to better bridge the disciplines, thereby making the physics course more relevant to the students. There were discussions about the external influences on IPLS, such as the upcoming changes to the MCAT. I have already received some of the resources and will contact other authors for their ideas. While not all of these will end up in my course, but they definitely help to expand my repertoire.

Related the IPLS resources were discussions about open-source materials, in particular textbooks. Many faculty are developing and sharing texts with the hope of reducing students' textbook costs. The most complete resource is the introductory physics textbook developed by OpenStax. I was able to further explore this text and discuss some of my questions with OpenStax representatives. I can definitely see adopting and adapting this text for my classes in the future.
I was also able to learn about program-level trends through discussions with colleagues at other institutions. As we further refine our learning outcomes and assessment plan, it is helpful to hear about other programs' learning goals and outcomes and how they are attempting to meet them. There was a session on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that was fascinating given the discussions that have happened in higher-education over the past decade. Now that some of the physics MOOCs have run for several years, the instructors are learning more about what works and what doesn't, and what might be their future. (One new model is inspired by freemium (formerly known as shareware) applications. In the MOOC, a participant can see some lectures for free, but if they want to delve deeper into the topic, they need to pay $1.99 to unlock that set of resources.)

The other sessions that I attended (instructional technology, metacognition, problem-solving, and many others on specific physics topics) we equally informative. It was a fantastic meeting, which was enhanced with the many discussions that I had with other physics teachers, particularly those in Southern California.