### Session H9: Physics Education Research

 Sunday, April 15, 2007 8:30AM - 9:06AM H9.00001: Improving student learning in physics: The challenge of identifying effective instructional strategies Invited Speaker: Paula Heron It is by now well known that many students leave physics courses expressing essentially the same (incorrect) ideas with which they entered. It is frequently assumed that these prior conceptions can be identified and then addressed through interactive engagement'' strategies such as hands-on activities, the use of clickers'' in the lecture hall, and small-group collaborative work. But is it that simple? In many cases it is difficult to identify specific tasks that will help students overcome serious and persistent conceptual difficulties. I will illustrate the process of identifying effective instructional strategies with a few examples and argue that topic-specific research on student understanding is crucial for improving instruction. Sunday, April 15, 2007 9:06AM - 9:42AM H9.00002: Abstract or Concrete: Which is better for learning and transfer? Invited Speaker: Andrew Heckler A common educational assumption is that learning is facilitated when knowledge is expressed in a concrete form, such as with rich examples or manipulatives. In addition, many educational curricula use multiple representations, some with varying degrees of concreteness, to aid in learning and transfer. However, there are reasons to call into question the effectiveness of concrete representations. In a series of experiments, we study the effects of concreteness on both learning and transfer. Both undergraduates and sixth graders learned the rules of a simple algebraic group, which has many isomorphic and real life'' instantiations. The instantiations learned and tested differed only in the amount and/or kind of concreteness. Results indicate that there are important tradeoffs in both learning and transfer between abstract and concrete representations, and that at least in some cases the learning of multiple representations does not change this conclusion. Sunday, April 15, 2007 9:42AM - 10:18AM H9.00003: Investigative Science Learning Environment: Motivation and Outcomes Invited Speaker: Eugenia Etkina The National Science Foundation's Shaping the Future 1996'' warns that: the national work force is changing dramatically, as high-paying but relatively unskilled factory jobs disappear in the face of foreign competition and technological advances; consequently the educational needs of the prospective work force are now vastly different.'' This report and many others indicate that science education should place much more emphasis on helping students acquire the process abilities used in the practice of science, abilities such as model building, designing experiments, analyzing real world problems, justifying assumptions, evaluating work, and communicating. This presentation will illustrate how Investigative Science Learning Environment used in introductory physics courses helps achieve these goals in large and small college classrooms and describe the results in terms of student learning of these abilities and of physics content.