Talk Abstracts



Carl Wieman
Stanford University | Stanford, CA
TITLE: Taking a Scientific Approach to Physics Education


Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, physics has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years. Guided primarily by tradition and dogma, physics education meanwhile has remained largely medieval. Research on how people learn by my group and others is now revealing much different and more effective ways to teach and evaluate physics learning than what is in use in the traditional university physics class. I will discuss some particularly notable recent advances we have made in the understanding and teaching of expert problem solving in science.

Presentation Slides

Carl Wieman is a Professor of Physics and Education at Stanford University. Wieman has done extensive experimental research in both atomic physics (Nobel Prize in physics 2001) and university science and engineering education (Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year 2004). He founded PhET, which provides online interactive simulations that are used 100 million times/year to learn science and recently published a book “Improving how universities teach science”. He is currently studying expertise and problem solving in science and engineering disciplines, and how this can be better measured and taught.

Alan November,
November Learning
Carolyn Staudt,
Concord Consortium
Bob Goodman,
New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning

Alan November
Talk Description: Focus will be on challenging students to take responsibility for owning their learning. Research skills, learning to develop lines of enquiry, peer-to-peer support and problem design will be focus areas.

Alan November is an international leader in education technology. He began his career as an oceanography teacher and dorm counselor at an island reform school for boys in Boston Harbor. He went to teach in an inner city Boston High School and three of the most competitive suburban high schools in the country. Alan also taught a doctorate leadership course on education technology for more than a decade. He has helped school government and industry leaders improve the quality of education through technology. Alan has delivered keynotes and workshops in all fifty states and more than 40 countries.

Alan was named one of the nation’s fifteen most influential thinkers of the decade by Classroom Computer Learning Magazine. He was listed one of eight educators to provide leadership into the future by the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse. His writing includes numerous articles, two computer science textbooks and the New York Times best-selling book, “Who Owns the Learning”. Alan was co-founder of the Stanford Institute for Educational Leadership Through Technology and is most proud of being selected as one of the original five national Christa McAuliffe Educators.

Carolyn Staudt: Senior Scientist, Concord Consortium
Talk Description: Carolyn will focus on hands-on practical activities….

Carolyn Staudt is a curriculum and professional development designer who infuses technology into collaborative inquiry-based projects. She has worked extensively on the educational uses of probes and models, allowing students to collect real-time data with sensors and probes attached to mobile devices. Carolyn has directed and managed over 15 National Science Foundation-funded projects since 1996 that include assisting teachers in the implementation of technology into the classroom curriculum, teacher and student utilization of digital interfaces and software, design of platforms for customizable activities, and manipulation of software up to, and including, scripting. She holds a Master’s of Education from Kent State University and was the 1990 Christa McAuliffe Fellow and the Fairlawn, Ohio, Citizen of the Year in 1991.

Bob Goodman Executive Director, New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning
Talk Description: Bob will share online resources that provide the entire physics curriculum online and additional resources for preparing physics teachers.

Robert Goodman, the 2006 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning. As the science chair and a teacher of physics, chemistry, and environmental science at the Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro, NJ from 1999 to 2009, he founded and led the development of the Progressive Science Initiative® (PSI®) and, later, the Progressive Mathematics Initiative® (PMI®). Bob was a member of the New Jersey Task Force on College and Career Readiness; NEA’s Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching; a Content Expert Reviewer for Achieve; a Field Reader for the United States Department of Education; and a member of the Education Advisory Committee for the Liberty Science Center. In 2007, Bob received the I CAN Learn – NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. He received his Bachelor of Science in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where his undergraduate research was published in an article he co-authored for the Journal of Applied Physics. He received his Master of Arts in Teaching Physics from SUNY Stony Brook, and his Doctorate in Science Education from Rutgers University, where Kappa Delta Pi awarded him the 2006 Delta Xi Award for outstanding dissertation. Before becoming a teacher, Bob had a twenty year career in the electronics industry which included serving as the President and Chief Executive Officer for Harman Kardon, JBL Consumer Products, and Onkyo International Operations.


Catherine Crouch, Swarthmore College

Title: Supporting interdisciplinary learning: Teaching physics to life science students
Research suggests that one aspect of helping students learn content effectively is to tap into sources of student interest, such as relevance to other areas that are already of interest to the students and to present learning the material as valuable to the student beyond succeeding in that particular course. This is a particularly pertinent consideration for undergraduate “service” courses, such as physics for life science students or engineering students, calculus for physics or engineers, or statistics for the social sciences, in which students taking the course have already identified a strong interest in another subject and are in the course to meet a requirement. In this session, I present our approach to teaching introductory physics for life science students, in which we seek to develop strong connections between physics and the life sciences, to foster students’ beliefs that drawing on physics will be useful to them in their future studies and careers in the life sciences, as well as giving them the skills to do so. I will describe the design of our course, give highlights of our assessment indicating that its interdisciplinary nature is indeed important and motivating to students, and finally describe the key elements of the process of working with faculty in biology, biochemistry, and medicine to develop this course.

Catherine Hirshfeld Crouch is Professor of Physics at Swarthmore College, where she has taught since 2003. Dr. Crouch has extensive expertise in both materials physics and pedagogical best practices for college and university science. She earned her PhD. at Harvard University studying electrical transport in nanofabricated quantum dots, and then remained at Harvard in a dual postdoctoral fellowship in materials physics and physics education with Eric Mazur. She has published more than twenty peer-reviewed experimental physics research articles and has involved twenty Swarthmore undergraduate students in her experimental work; she has also published a dozen peer-reviewed articles evaluating methods and curricula for teaching introductory physics. Her work developing and evaluating introductory physics for life science students is currently supported by two National Science Foundation grants.


Maqsuda Afroz
Chavez High School | Houston, TX

The Value in the “What Ifs”
What we ask is just as important as how we ask. In fact I am willing to go a step further and say the delivery is more important to student engagement than the question itself. This is even truer for the “cut and dry” areas like physics. There is a lot of power in thought experiments (what if questions) not only from a scientific perspective which allows us to think about the phenomena we want to study in isolation but also from a pedagogical perspective. For example when we are teaching systems and external vs internal forces one may ask a question in the following manner: Can an internal force acting on a rigid object cause its acceleration as a whole? This question though interesting can seem very technical (Though we do want students to understand and use them by the end). Here is how that looks using what if’s: What if we could take all the people on Earth to the Great Wall of China and ask them to jump at the same time, would the force be enough to kick Earth out of orbit? Why? What if these same people were aliens who came crashing into Earth using their rockets from the outside? In both cases we are trying to see whether internal forces can cause acceleration but the way it is asked has changed. The “what if” questions peak students imagination and ask them to go above and beyond hence deepening their learning and retention.

Phil Culcasi
Wheaton Warrenville South High School | Wheaton, IL

Building a STEM Teacher Network From the Ground Up
For the past nine summers at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, located in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, science teachers from all disciplines have gathered to explore an innovative way of teaching science called Modeling Instruction.  What began with one single physics teacher in one classroom over twenty years ago, has spread to every teacher in the department and to many other high schools in Illinois.  All told, over 500 teachers from Illinois, twenty additional states, and several countries abroad have travelled to Wheaton to take workshops from leaders in modeling instruction.  Phil Culcasi, a chemistry & physics teacher, Department Chair, workshop leader,  and Director of the Midwest Modeling Institute, will share his perspective on the history of modeling instruction at WW South as well as how the network grew over a decade to include teachers from throughout the Chicago area.

Charles Deremer
Marion L. Steele High School, Amherst Exempted Village School District | Amherst, OH

Modeling Instruction—strengths and Weaknesses
Modeling instruction in physics is student-centered and parallels the natural process by which people develop a working mental model of the behavior of the universe. However, it has some structural weaknesses, as it takes some time to have students adapt to this pedagogy. After the majority of their schooling spent in a passive lecture-based classroom, the shift to greater responsibility is easy and even attractive for some, but for most, it becomes a game of finding what students “get it” and parroting them. The challenge for the teacher is to be both supportive and to permit no one to hide in anyone’s shadow. In this age of increased adolescent anxieties, this becomes particularly tricky. Furthermore, modeling demands time—lots of it—and most schools do not have the means or will to create a supportive structure for that demand of time.

Christopher Gray
La Salle Academy | Providence, RI

Teaching as a Second Career
An untapped resource for schools in need of science teachers is the cohort of professionals entering their second career. Several factors such as pay structure, certification requirements and public perception inhibit career engineers, military officers and enlisted, and other professionals from considering a second career as a teacher. A significant portion of these have degrees and experience in science or engineering which are going untapped. Further, they have a wealth of experience in organizations that prioritize task accomplishment and success, application of scientific concepts, and management of people and projects.

Chad Hobby
Timber Creek High School | Orlando, FL

Experimental Design
Students in High School Physics need to learn how to design and run their own experiments because that’s what real researchers and scientists do. You don’t have to run every lab this way, but there should be at least a portion of the class dedicated to teaching students how to design a good experiment and run it. I do this during my unit on Scientific Method. This is also important for AP Physics 1 because every year the AP exam has an experimental design question.

Jolene Johnson
Edison High School | Minneapolis, MN

Strategies to Support English Language Learners in High School Physics
I will share strategies that I have developed with my EL co teacher on improving teaching for English language learner students in physics. We have focused on building understanding of physics concepts and supporting scientific language development.

Robert Krakehl
Stony Brook University | Stony Brook, NY

All Alone: Understanding Physics Teacher Isolation
This presentation would be based around quasi-experimental census study of NYS with data from the academic years of 2012/13-2018/19 regarding the extent of physics teacher isolation in NYS. The context in which these teachers taught, and a comparison of student achievement in a state mandated physics examination between isolated physics teachers and non-isolated physics teachers will be presented. Furthermore, predictors of student achievement for isolated physics teachers would be presented as well as partial mediators for the negative predictors. Several Teacher-level variables were studied, including the content preparation and certification of physics teachers, physics course load, professional age (years of experience), whether the teacher was isolated, whether the teacher taught mathematics, and whether the teacher taught Advanced Placement Physics; and school-level variables including physics standardized test passing rates, school size, socioeconomic status, locale, and physics course-taking ratio.

Fabien Kunis
Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” | Sofia, Bulgaria

Collaborative Problem Solving
Improving students’ collaborative problem skills is a key factor for their successful integration into the workforce. More and more jobs require very good communication and teamwork. In this study, we explore the potential for improving collaborative problem solving skills through the use of an electronic platform for solving physics problems. Initial results show a significant improvement in these skills. More attempts are being made to get a more data.

Michael McConnell
Spreadsheet Lab Manual LLC | Blackwood, NJ

Spreadsheet Modeling: Uniting Science and Math with Data Science
Computational modeling and remote learning have defined the pandemic, and Spreadsheet Lab Manual has developed a standardized, NGSS aligned computational modeling curriculum framework based on value added in capability. This is due to a gigahertz microprocessor and a vast array of computing cells and functions makes a spreadsheet a powerful tool for analytics, that provides near infinite value added in terms of calculating power and memory compared to the human brain. Leveraging this computing power can be done through precisely guided pedagogy that includes exact instructions students or teachers follow to code the model. SLM provides everything to be remotely accessed, shared, and can serve as an interactive experimentation platform. Spreadsheet modeling is a high-value time investment for educators with professional development credited for completing and delivering a lesson module to your students. Once the first-time prep work is complete, subsequent iterations are influenced by the teacher’s own creativity and lesson experience with students, which they can then share with others. By joining the SLM professional learning community, more students will learn physics with spreadsheets content in class, we grow the diversity of ideas that can be shared, but ensure fair and equitable access to valid content for each and every student.

Shannon Morey
Abbott Lawrence Academy at Lawrence High School | Lawrence, MA

BiteScis: Engaging Physics Lessons Through Teacher-Researcher Partnerships
BiteScis ( is dedicated to engaging students by exposing them to current science research that provides context to the content they are expected to master. BiteScis lessons are developed in collaborative partnerships between high school teachers and early career STEM researchers. The development process provides relevant, useful, and unique professional development for both “BiteScientist” partners. The lessons that result are of the highest quality, standards-aligned, easy-to-implement, and are designed to root out misconceptions and provide a good classroom experience for teachers and students. This presentation will describe our model and present BiteScis’ physics resources currently available, which are all free and fully-editable, on our webpage. Like all BiteScis lessons, they affirm for students that the knowledge they are gaining in the physics classroom is the foundation for emerging research, from examining swimming dolphins to study conservation of momentum to discussing liver fibrosis to develop an understanding of mechanical waves.

Elmarie Mortimer
Trinity Preparatory School | Winter Park, FL

Recognizing Parallels between Physics Research and Effective Teaching
High School Physics teaching and successful Physics Research share similar strategies. The well-tested approach to successful research is to question the world around us and follow the steps in the scientific method. The physics classroom is not that different from the scientific method; we still need to read and research to establish the vocabulary and fundamental concepts to be able to move forward. However, knowing is not necessarily understanding a concept. Students need to be given the opportunity to first form their own concept idea and then investigate, validate and improve it. The investigation, validation or falsification of conceptual ideas is thus the same process that is used to advance our research understanding.

Thomas Peteet
Somerville High School | Somerville, MA

A Group-based Approach for Teaching High School Physics
The aim of this presentation is to introduce a group-based framework for teaching
undergraduate kinematics and electricity and magnetism. The session will outline an
approach to curriculum development based on Eric Mazur’s peer-based instruction,
adapted for a context with limited technological resources. It will offer examples of tiered
problem sets, a grading model based on student collaboration, and group assessment. It
will also offer strategies for engaging students in debate around conceptual physics topics.

Praisy Poluan
Huntington Beach Union High School District | Huntington Beach, CA

Teaching is a Profession, Not a Fallback!
During this presentation, educators will reconceptualize teacher learning around a foundation of the core practices of education. We will discuss teaching as a complex practice and how to bridge the theory-practice divide in instruction.

Marta Stoeckel
Tartan High School | Oakdale, MN

Gender, Self-Assessment, & Classroom Experiences
Confidence is an important factor in whether students see themselves as a science person and is a factor in whether or not students decide to persist in physics or related fields. At the college level, men frequently report more confidence than their female peers, even when they have similar achievement and there is evidence that what happens in the classroom can impact students’ confidence.

In this talk, I will share action research I conducted in my AP Physics 1 classroom to using self-assessments examine how my students’ confidence compared to their actual performance and qualitative data to find out what kinds of experiences impacted their confidence. While I did not find a confidence gap among my students, I did find gender differences in what impacted their confidence. All of my students saw labs where they discovered a new concept themselves as an important opportunity to build confidence. Girls also built confidence from teacher feedback, even on assessments where they scored poorly, while boys saw peer interactions as a source of confidence. Along with these results, I will discuss how this research has impacted my teaching.

Milijana Suskavcevic
Clear Creek High School | League City, TX

A Study of Physics Faculty and HS Physics Teachers Instructional Practices
Implications for Experiential STEM PD Model This work is founded on research of physics faculty engagement with an intensive, year-long, sustained, high school physics teacher training program (STEM Teaching Equity Project), and effects of such engagement on faculty’s instructional and assessment practices at the university level physics courses. By utilizing a community of practice approach to train high school physics teachers in physics content, university faculty had an opportunity to develop and perfect their own instructional skills and methods, and implement these in their university level courses. This research led to the development of an experiential STEM faculty professional development model, which has potential for transferability to other STEM disciplines. Also, the effects of faculty’s content expertise on physics teachers’ cognitive outcomes will be discussed.

Nikolay Tsonev
World Youth Academy | Bulgaria

Creating Experimental Staging in Physics, Mechanics Section-Pendulum and Lever Systems

In the field of physics training the practical orientation prevails, which is mainly realized through experimental work. In the structure of scientific research we can distinguish two sides of the experiment. On the one hand, it is the link between the theoretical and empirical stages of scientific research. The other side of the experiment is that it belongs to human cognitive and practical activity. From what has been said so far, it is important that in the implementation of the Physics Study Experiment (PSE) to separate the two stages of the research activity: 1. practical activity of the students in the preparation of the experimental setting and 2. Verification of the truth of theoretical knowledge by comparison with the experimental results. In the “Technology and entrepreneurship” classes, the students prepare their own productions. Here, the educational goals are determined by the curriculum of the respective subject

Marcie Williams
Ooltewah High School | Ooltewah, TN

Developing Local Physics Teacher Training
In this talk I will share my experiences developing physics teacher training in the southeastern region of TN.  As a new physics teacher, I quickly recognized a need for high quality professional development aimed specifically at the high school physics curriculum.  After 5 years of teaching, I received a grant and was able to develop a program called PhysicsEDU.  This program has been an amazing win for physics teachers in this region.  We reached 18 physics teachers from 7 districts and 4 private schools.  We were able to bring in a nationally recognized physics education researcher, Dr. Brian Frank from MTSU, to lead our teachers in planning successful physics education over two Saturdays in the 2019-2020 school year.  The goal of this workshop was to equip teachers with the materials they needed to implement these lessons immediately, so teachers were also provided with a small amount of supplies/equipment for their classroom.  In a survey given out after the August workshop, 80% of the teachers indicated that their school or district NEVER offer training designed for physics teachers. Clearly there is a need for this type of teacher training and resources must be invested in order to improve access and quality of physics education.

Pamela Word
John Jay High School | San Antonio, TX

Teach your Students How to Learn
The traditional high school student often doesn’t know how to study effectively, leading to high levels to stress when they encounter challenging STEM classes at the high school level. This session will discuss learning and study strategies based on cognitive science research that will support student learning both in and out of the classroom, thus reducing overall student stress.

Please contact workshop coordinator Sara Bradley with any questions.

In-Person Workshop TBA