Applying current research findings from cognitive and neurosciences to university physics teaching

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Venue:OE 134

"Applying current research findings from cognitive and neurosciences to university physics teaching"

Abstract:

In 2007, Dedra Demaree was hired to lead reform of the introductory courses at Oregon State University. Assessment of this reform led (among other projects) to a PhD student developing a validated survey on student physics identity, and extensive consideration of learning environments and what motivates student participation. In parallel work, Dr. Demaree collaborates with the University of Cape Town to evaluate bridging programs at the undergraduate and graduate level to help under-prepared students succeed in physics programs. Part of this work has centered on studying what impacts how a student responds to a physics question, and has led to the development of a cognitive model for activation of resources and effective use of working memory during problem solving. These projects seem very unrelated: community learning environments and resource activation/working memory use, however, the latest research findings from cognitive and neurosciences provide a compelling information on how the brain is wired that requires us to see these as intrinsically connected. To borrow from Steve Alsop (2005) "the complexity of science education necessitates recognition of the mutually constitutive nature of cognition and affect.... At all levels, cognition and affect are seen as fused, inseparable... affect should be seen as axiomatic, at times making science education difficult, but above all else, actually making science education possible." This talk will share current understanding of how the brain works with applications to the teaching of university physics.

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Short bio:*

Assistant Professor of Physics at Oregon State University since September 2007, Visiting Professor of Physics at College of the Holy Cross (Massachusetts), 2006-2007, PhD in Physics from The Ohio State University, 2006 Primary Research: Assessing student learning in reformed teaching environments, Developing and assessing models for faculty adoption of reformed teaching, Program evaluation for success of minorities at the graduate and undergraduate level (in South Africa), Studying the role of discourse in student affect and engagement Other physics expertise: Computational particle physics, Cold atom physics, Atomic-beam experiments