DICKINSON SUMMER SEMINARS ON TEACHING PHYSICS USING INTERACTIVE TEACHING METHODS AND COMPUTERS (ITMC)
Summary of the Program Evaluation for 1990-1996
James M. Hoeffler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Political Science
Dickinson College, Carlisle PA 17013
A series of two-week NSF funded summer seminars on introductory physics teaching were held at Dickinson College between 1990 and 1996. These seminars were designed to introduce instructors from colleges and high schools to interactive teaching methods enhanced by computer tools and curricular materials of proven effectiveness (ITMC). A survey was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the seminar instruction, the introductory physics curricular materials and computer tools used in the seminars, and seminar recruitment. The survey results should be of interest to those who are concerned with the development of curricular materials and computer tools in the sciences or who are planning to use workshops or extended seminars to disseminate new educational materials in the sciences.
Results of the survey are presented in a 40 page report that includes an analysis of the survey results, 30 charts, 8 tables, and a series of recommendations for improving the seminar series as well as the curricular materials and computer tools being disseminated in the seminars. A 56 page appendix includes a copy of the survey form and correspondence with seminar participants. The appendix also includes transcripts of the answers to free response questions, information about the seminar series curriculum and instructors as well as a sample flyers and advertisements used for recruitment purposes. Evaluation highlights of other sections of the report follow.
II. Survey Population
- Survey data were obtained from 91 of the 235 physics instructors who attended a seminar including 39 college level instructors and 9 high school teachers. [p. 4].
III. Impact of the ITMC Seminars
- 81% of the respondents were optimistic about the value of ITMC methods (48% were very optimistic and another 33% were mildly optimistic). [p. 10]
- major reasons for pessimism about the use of ITMC methods identified in the free response portion of the survey included‹ time needs to implement the methods (13%), problems securing funding (12%), inflexibility of colleagues (12%) and student resistance to the use of new methods (10%). [p. 11]
- 66% of respondents reported devoting less time to lecturing as a result of attending an ITMC seminar. Overall, 28% less time was spent on lecturing [p.12]
- About 2/3rds of respondents retained a separation of lecture and laboratory and about 1/3rd reported using a “Workshop ModelÓ in which lecture and lab functions are not separated. Respondents made frequent use of some combination of the Workshop Physics, Tools for Scientific Thinking and RealTime Physics curricula. Overall use of each curriculm is about the same[pp. 14-15]
- The most popular ITMC approaches included the use of interactive lecture demonstrations, small group and plenary discussions, MBL/CBL interfacing and spreadsheet graphing. [pp. 14-15]
- Based on the survey responses, the seminar series impacted 84,000 students between 1990 and 1997. Assuming continued use of ITMC approximately 30,000 new students will be exposed to ITMC methods each year. [pp. 17-18]
- Respondents report that 62% of students enjoy ITMC methods while a vocal minority of 9% of the students express frustration with ITMC. [pp. 17-18].
- Respondents believe that conceptual learning has improved for over half of their students with ITMC methods while an estimated one-quarter are unaffected. Only 5% of students seem to do worse. [p. 19].
V. Communications and Recruitment
- Respondents reported disseminating ITMC methods via direct contact with a total of 380 colleagues inside and outside of their institutions. Additionally, 31% of the respondents reported spreading the word by means of presentations and workshops. [p. 25]
- Most participants have learned about the seminars by means of direct mail, ads in The Physics Teacher, and word of mouth. Although very few learned about the seminars via email and the web, the increased use of these modalities will make them more important in future recruitment efforts. [p. 24]
- About three-quarters of the respondents applied for a total of $4.6M to implement ITMC methods and received $3.3M from a combination of institutional and outside sources. [pp. 28-30]
- Only 60% of respondents submitted written suggestions for improving the seminars, and nearly half of these ended up writing “change nothing.Ó [p. 32]
- “...ITMC seminars are viewed in a very positive light by an overwhelming majority of the seminar alumni who took part in this study.Ó [p. 37]
VIII. Recommendations [pp. 34-38]
- A series of 7 recommendations were made for improving the seminar series and the curricular materials and computer tools being disseminated. Some key recommendations included:
(1) coordinating existing curricular materials and computer tools for use in a range of learning environments;
(2) helping teachers and instructors prepare their students to experience ITMC ; and
(3) developing and refining evaluation instruments so instructors can do action research on the impact of ITMC on their own students.
NOTE: A printed copy of the report can be requested from Gail Oliver at Dickinson College. Email: email@example.com. Alternatively, a Microsoft Word¨ folder containing this summary and the full report is available at the Dickinson College Physics Department Website: http://physics.dickinson.edu