Physics for the Life Sciences
With support from the National Science Foundation and the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, we completely transformed the large-enrollment two-course sequence of introductory physics for life science majors. Both courses are now taught in the integrated lecture/studio format (where students attend two hours of lecture and four hours of studio per week.) and use authentic biological phenomena to motivate the physics. As part of this transformation effort, we created a suite of 53 active-engagement modules, each consisting of studio activities, an interactive lecture, and assessment questions, all of which have been developed using the findings and best practices from PER. This suite includes materials for many topics that are important for life science majors, but are not part of the traditional introductory physics curriculum, including stress and strain, diffusion, chemical energy, and life at low Reynolds numbers. For more information, click here.
Physics for the Physical Sciences
In order to provide a larger range of students with a greater exposure to exciting topics at the cutting-edge of physics, we have incorporated relativity and quantum mechanics into the two-semester introductory sequence for physical science majors. Both courses in this sequence are taught in the lecture/studio format. The large-enrollment lectures incorporate think-pair-share clicker-style questions, and the smaller studio sections use collaborative learning techniques such as hands-on lab activities and group problem solving. This work has been supported by the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative.
In collaboration with the Center for Astronomy Education, we are engaged in a research and curriculum development program to create a new suites of evidence-based educational materials that bring modern astrophysics topics into the introductory astronomy classroom. These materials are centered around new Lecture-Tutorials, but also include Think-Pair-Share questions, presentation slides, and assessment questions. Each Lecture-Tutorial is a two to six page worksheet comprised of Socratic-style questions related to a single topic. Working collaboratively through a Lecture-Tutorial’s questions helps students to construct more expert-like understandings of that topic. The new Lecture-Tutorials cover topics such as molecular excitations and synchrotron radiation, interferometry, the detection of extrasolar planets via the transit method, and the detection of extrasolar planets via gravitational microlensing. These learner-centered active engagement activities are going through an iterative research and assessment process to ensure that they enable students to achieve increased conceptual understandings and reasoning skills. This work has been supported by Associated Universities, Inc. and NASA JPL Exoplanet Exploration Program.
Project RADIAL (Radio Astronomy-Directed Investigations for Active Learning) brings together a multi-institutional collaboration of science education researchers, radio astronomers, software developers, and astronomy instructors to create laboratory investigations that engage introductory astronomy students in authentic radio astronomy observing projects using the Green Bank 20-meter radio antenna via the Skynet robotic telescope interface. These RADIAL activities will guide Astro 101 students through authentic experiences using a modern radio telescope as they learn to acquire and analyze data to investigate exciting and relevant astrophysical phenomena. In tandem with the development of the investigations, the RADIAL team is also developing new user-friendly data analysis and visualization tools for Skynet’s online software platform, Afterglow. These new Afterglow capabilities will, for the first time, enable students to conduct authentic collaborative research in radio astronomy without the need for expert guidance at each step of their investigations.
The College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Education partnered together to develop and run a fast-track teacher preparation program called UNC-BEST (University of North Carolina Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching). Students in the UNC-BEST program are science or mathematics majors who, in addition to the courses for their majors, complete the requirements for subject specific, secondary licensure in North Carolina. As of 2021, the program will be house solely in the School of Education.