NSF Proposal Summary DUE-0618877
9/06–8/11; $498,124

PARADIGMS IN PHYSICS: MULTIPLE ENTRY POINTS
Corinne A. Manogue, Tevian Dray, Barbara S. Edwards, David H. McIntyre, & Emily H. van Zee

Intellectual Merit

This proposal merges two very successful projects: The Paradigms in Physics Project, a complete redesign of the physics major, now in its ninth year, and the Vector Calculus Bridge Project, an effort to “bridge the gap” between the mathematics and physics of vector calculus, now in its fifth year. The merged project will be run by an established team, with two new members in education research, appropriate to its expanded role.

The primary thrust of this proposal is to design materials that provide multiple entry points to our successful curriculum, aimed not only at encouraging full adoption of our 18 redesigned courses, but also at supporting faculty teaching more traditional courses who may wish to experiment with one or more pieces, be it a single activity or an entire course. We have identified four main strands:

  1. New content: We plan to develop textbooks for quantum mechanics and for vector calculus, emphasizing our nonstandard approach to these topics, while encouraging, but not requiring, the use of active engagement.
  2. Case studies: We plan to expand our existing websites to provide the information necessary for successful adoption of one or more of our activities, showing how to combine lectures and active engagement in a coherent way.
  3. Community of scholars: We plan to host a small number of visitors, who would be immersed in, and contribute to, the entire Paradigms package.
  4. Education Research: We plan to do research into students' ability to reason harmonically and metacognitively, and how these skills are affected by our materials.

Broader Impact

In addition to the impact on students, faculty, TAs, and visitors directly involved in the project, the primary goal of this project is to make what we have learned available to as wide an audience as possible. We expect to see impacts as a formal part of the project, but also in other, perhaps surprising ways, due to the use of multiple forms of dissemination. Each strand has the potential to reach beyond the boundaries of the project. We anticipate for example that the textbooks we develop will be used by many students and faculty beyond the immediate adopters of the Paradigms program. And the case studies on the website might be used for training TAs and other teachers. Our visitors will surely infuse our vision with unexpected insights and knowledge that will spin off in new directions. And the information gained by our research into student learning will be available to the entire education research community.


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