Academic Physicists' Introductory Teaching Improvement Efforts at Major Research Universities

Presentation Date: 

Saturday, July 17, 2010


American Association of Physics Teachers Summer Meeting 2010 (Portland, OR, USA)
There is no shortage of PER literature describing research-based, instructional strategies for improving teaching in introductory college physics courses. [1] It remains, however, that most physics faculty with visions of improved teaching based on such strategies must overcome significant barriers, including a reward system structured to direct faculty attention toward research and away from pedagogy. [2] Barriers to teaching improvement are compounded at major research universities (MRUs), where science faculty must balance extreme demands for research productivity with their teaching responsibilities. During a yearlong study, I explored the teaching improvement efforts of 20 such S.T.E.M. professors at two American MRUs. This talk presents analyses of in-depth interviews with the study’s five academic physicists, as well as observations of their classroom teaching and course documents. Results respond to the question: Why and how do some research-active physicists venture toward undergraduate teaching improvement in an institutional system that largely devalues faculty investments in pedagogy?

Abstract Footnotes: [1] See Henderson, C. & Dancy, M. (2009) The Impact of Physics Education Research on the Teaching of Introductory Quantitative Physics in the United States, Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, 5 (2), 020107. [2] Henderson, C. and Dancy, M. (2007) Barriers to the Use of Research-Based Instructional Strategies: The Influence of Both Individual and Situational Characteristics. Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, 3 (2), 020102.