This award supports the development, assessment, and dissemination of resource material for "Peer Instruction" in quantum mechanics, from sophomore-level modern physics to the junior-senior level courses, to prepare future scientists and engineers for the demands of a high-tech workplace with its growing dependence on quantum phenomena. The resource material includes the "ConcepTests" for formative assessment, standardized assessment tools for summative assessment and the material for Just-In-Time Teaching (JITT) including "Reactive Homework" problems for modern physics and quantum mechanics courses. The research-based material will continue to be developed using findings of student misconceptions and difficulties in learning quantum mechanics. A major goal of this phase of the project will be a rigorous assessment of the material at other colleges and Universities. Control studies comparing similar courses in Modern Physics and Quantum Mechanics in which Peer Instruction was employed with those for which this pedagogical method was not employed are ongoing. Such studies will be extended to other colleges and universities. Standardized assessment tools involving multiple-choice questions will continue to be developed and refined for assessment purposes. Peer Instruction material developed will continue to be disseminated through workshops at professional meetings, publications in journals, personal and professional society websites, and presentations at colloquia and seminars at various universities and colleges. The resource material developed as part of this project will be published as a reference book suitable for instructors towards the end of the project period.

Project Report

We developed and assessed resource material for Peer Instruction in quantum mechanics.A central component of the resource material is research-based concept tests which can be used by instructors as a formative assessment tool. The instructors can use them for bridging the gap between the abstract quantitative formalism of quantum mechanics and the qualitativeunderstanding necessary to explain and predict diverse physical phenomena.These tools build on research in physics education and cognitive research and ensure that new knowledge builds on students' prior knowledge. They help students repair, organize and extend their knowledge.Posing questions during lectures and asking students to discuss them with each other before polling the class has already been shown to be effective at the introductory level. Our project was focused on developing and evaluating tools that will make it easy for instructors teaching college quantum mechanics courses to use this peer-instruction approach without the constraint of reinventing the wheel and developing the teaching tools themselves. This method provides a mechanism to convey the goals of the course and the level of understanding that is desired of students and also helps students monitor their learning. As part of Just in Time Teaching material, we also developed ``Reflective Homework" problems that strive to bridge the gap between conceptual and quantitative learning. These ``Reflective homework" problems can be effective tools for classroom discussions after students turn them in via the digital toolbox on their course website. They can also be used to supplement traditional homework problems.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Kathleen V. McCloud
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University of Pittsburgh
United States
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