Travel Grant 2015-16: Vincent Coletta

Vincent Coletta, Physics

Summer Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers
College Park, MD
July 26-29, 2015

Nature/Type of the Event

This is the national meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the most important group dedicated to improving physics education. This meeting is the pre-eminent event in the world where ideas about teaching physics are discussed each year by physics instructors from all over the world. I regularly attend this meeting.

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

At this meeting I will be presenting my most recent research. My teaching is research-based, meaning that it relies on data demonstrating the efficacy of my methods. Thus I will provide data showing student improvement, following the implementation of my teaching methods at LMU. These teaching methods have gradually evolved over the years. Twenty years ago my teaching methods were traditional. Today I use a wide variety of methods designed to make students more engaged during class and to overcome barriers to learning, such as stereotype threat experienced by female students. My classes always have extensive pre and post instruction assessment of physics concepts, scientific reasoning, and problem solving skills, using standardized instruments. My methods include use of conceptual clicker questions to stimulate student discussion, online games designed to enhance problem solving strategies, thinking journals, in which students are prompted to describe the evolution of their thinking in my class. I always interview students individually in the first week of class, so that I have a clear understanding of their individual needs, and so that they feel more comfortable approaching me. I also employ methods others have found mitigate gender stereotype threat, including use of a self affirmation exercise developed at the U. of Colorado. I also require students to have end of year projects in which they describe the physics of something of their own choosing that they have an interest in. In addition to presenting research data describing student learning, I will also be describing my new website, which will allow dissemination (free of charge) of a great many educational materials I have developed as part of the Thinking in Physics curriculum. Specifically, I will describe materials newly available on the website, including the aforementioned games, and exercises designed to help students overcome their tendencies to solve problems impulsively.