Physics and Astronomy


Paired Teaching: Jared Stang and Linda Strubbe are conducting a study investigating the effectiveness of paired teaching as a method of faculty development in teaching. PDFPoster (UBC 2015 Science Ed Open House): Two models of paired teaching in first year physics lectures, and PDFPoster (UBC 2016 Science Ed Open House): Paired teaching for faculty professional development. A paper with preliminary results has been accepted to the Proceedings of the Western Conference on Science Education. Collection of conference presentations for this project

Two-Stage Exam Studies: Joss Ives is studying two-stage exams with two major projects. With Simmer Mand, he is modelling student success on related clicker questions a few days after the two-stage exam (undergraduate honours thesis). With Nutifafa Kwaku Sumah, he is analyzing video of students partaking in the group stage of the exam to understand how students participate (undergraduate honours thesis). Analysis is ongoing with Jared Stang, Nutifafa Kwaku Sumah, and Matias de Jong van Lier. UBC 2016 Science Ed Open House posters

Sims to Enhance Pre-reading: Jared Stang, Megan Barker, Sarah Perez, Joss Ives, and Ido Roll are conducting a study in PHYS 157 on using PhET sims (online interactive physics simulations) to enhance pre-reading assignments. UBC 2016 Science Ed Open House poster

Student Attitudes about Experimental Science: Linda Strubbe is conducting a study (with Doug Bonn and Joss Ives) in PHYS 119 on student attitudes about experimental science during the first-year physics lab. She has developed pre-lab questions where students reflect on their learning and development as a scientist, and is analyzing results from pre- and post-semester ECLASS surveys. UBC 2016 Science Ed Open House poster

Student Attitudes on Learning Astronomy: Linda Strubbe is working with Anabele Pardi (graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany) to study student attitudes during a summer school on astronomy held in Nigeria in July 2015.

Scientific Reasoning During Lab Experiments: Natasha Holmes and Doug Bonn have conducted groundbreaking research focused on improving students’ scientific reasoning and critical thinking in an introductory physics laboratory course. They developed a simple learning framework that employs cycles of decisions about making and acting on quantitative comparisons between datasets or data and models. This led to significant and sustained improvement in students’ critical thinking behaviors. The work has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy: PDF N. Holmes, C. Wieman, and D. Bonn (2015) Teaching critical thinking, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(36), pp. 11199–11204. Also see PDFDoug Bonn's talk slides from the UBC 2016 Science Ed Open House: Making Comparisons: A Strategy for Teaching Scientific Reasoning.

PER PhD Thesis: We graduated our second PhD student in physics education research. Natasha Holmes’ thesis work about the intervention in the Phys 107/109 labs can be found online at:

Gender Issues During Lab Experiments: Natasha Holmes, Ido Roll, and Doug Bonn have published a paper on issues of gender during experiments. PDF(Physics in Canada 2014): Participating in the physics lab: does gender matter?. James Day, Jared Stang, Natasha Holmes, Dhaneesh Kumar, and Doug Bonn have a follow-up paper on the gender gap on the CDPA and behavior differences in the lab that could contribute to such a gap which is accepted the Physical Review Physics Education Research.

TA-Student Interactions: Jared Stang and Ido Roll published a paper on TA interactions and student engagement in the first-year physics lab: Interactions between teaching assistants and students boost engagement in physics labs, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. (2014)

Invention Activities and Lab Diagnostic: Natasha Holmes, James Day, Idol Roll & Doug Bonn, with further assistance from students Hiroko Nakahara, and Brad Ramshaw, have been studying the effectiveness of invention activities to improve students’ data interpretation and analysis skills and understanding. This has included classroom observation, pre/post testing with a lab diagnostic, and data-mining of student work on an online system used to deliver invention activities. The latter is being used to understand how invention activities can help students develop high level scientific reasoning skills.
PDFPaper (2013 PER Conference Proceedings): Finding Evidence of Transfer with Invention Activities: Teaching the Concept of Weighted Average
PDFPaper (Instructional Science 2013): Making the failure more productive: scaffolding the invention process to improve inquiry behaviors and outcomes in invention activities
PDFPaper (Instructional Science 2012): Evaluating metacognitive scaffolding in guided invention activities
PDFPaper (Physical Review ST-PER 2011): Development of the Concise Data Processing Assessment
PDFPaper (The Physics Teacher, 2010): Teaching Standard Deviation by Building from Student Invention
PDFPoster (CWSEI EOY 2012): The Invention Support Environment: Where Do We Go From Here?

Two-Stage Exams: Cynthia Heiner, Georg Rieger, and Carl Wieman have published two papers on two-stage exams:
PDFPaper (The Physics Teacher, 2014): Physics Exams that Promote Collaborative Learning
PDFPaper (J. College Science Teaching, 2014): Examinations That Support Collaborative Learning: The Students’ Perspective

Reformed Phys 100 labs: Georg Rieger, Michael Sitwell, Jim Carolan, and Ido Roll have published a paper on the reformed Phys 100 labs. PDF(Physics in Canada 2014): A “flipped” approach to large-scale first-year labs

Pre-Reading Study: Cynthia Heiner and Mandy Banet (Biology) have published a paper on pre-reading assignments:
PDFPaper (American J. Physics 2014): Preparing students for class: How to get 80% of students reading the textbook before class

Effectiveness of Astronomy Tutorial Exercises: Peter Newbury has completed pre- and post-testing of ASTR 310 and ASTR 311 tutorial exercises, such as the Human Orrery. The results were presented at AAS 216, May 23-27, 2010 in Miami, FLA. In Stair’s ASTR 311 (Fall 2010) students wrote the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory pre- and post-test. The results are used to compare the impact of interactive, learner-centered instruction to similar introductory astronomy courses across the U.S.
PDFPaper (The Physics Teacher 2010): Exploring the Solar System with a Human Orrery
PDFPoster (April 2009): Exploring the Solar System with a Human Orrery

Impact of Pre-Reading on student questions: Louis Deslauriers, Georg Rieger, and Bing Dai studied the impact of pre-reading on the sophistication of student questions during lectures. The study took place in Physics 101, 102 and 250. Results consistently show that pre-reading along with proper incentive leads to an increase in the sophistication of student questions.

Impact of Learning Goals: Louis Deslauriers, Joshua Folk, and Georg Rieger studied the impact of learning goals on student self assessment of their understanding in Physics 100 and Physics 101.

Peer Discussion Effect on Knowledge Retention: Louis Deslauriers and Joshua Folk conducted a study in PHYS 450 aimed at comparing the effect of peer discussions and classic instruction on students’ knowledge retention.

Conceptual Inventories: Widespread deployment of conceptual inventories to assess student understanding of mechanics and electricity & magnetism concepts. These include an extensive vertical survey from first to fourth year using the new lab diagnostic, a similar vertical survey using the BEMA diagnostic, and use of the FCI in freshman classes and sophomore mechanics.

CLASS surveys: Widespread deployment of CLASS student attitudes about science surveys in all first year courses, with testing done in Sept., at the end of the first term, and again at the end of the second term.