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Physics Education in Canada


Physics Education in Canada Tetyana Antimirova and Pedro Goldman Department of Physics, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science Ryerson University – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Physics Education in Canada

Physics Education in Canada
  • Tetyana Antimirova and Pedro Goldman
  • Department of Physics,
  • Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science
  • Ryerson University
  • 2008 OAPT
  • 22-24 May

Welcome to Ryerson!
  • State of physics teaching
  • What is PER and PER subfields
  • Challenges of PEP in Canada due to current
    funding model and our efforts to change it
  • Latest Canadian PER initiatives
  • Physics Education at Ryerson
  • Looking into the future

Current State of Secondary Science Education in
Canada PISA 2006
Programme for International Student Assessment
(PISA) 57 countries took part in the
assessment. Canada came up 3rd! Only students
from Finland and Hong-Kong, China outperformed
Canadian students in science!
  • However, science performance is uneven among the
    Canadian provinces.
  • Alberta is significantly better than any Canadian
    province, while Quebec, Ontario, and BC performed
    at the average level, and the rest of the
    provinces performed significantly below the
    Canadian average.

Challenges for Postsecondary Education
  • Increasing expectations for student engagement
    and satisfaction
  • Meeting the needs caused by changing demographics

Changing Demographics
  • More people than ever before pursue
    post-secondary education
  • Large Classes (100-200 students is a new norm,
    some classes are up to 1500 students)
  • In Ontario younger population
  • Too many distractions
  • Many students are forced to work while going to

  • The transition from high school to university is
    very painful for many students
  • Many programs/universities report low graduation
  • The success or failure during the first year is a
    good predictor of students future at the
  • Universities invest into lots of resources into
    first-year intervention to ease the transition
    (first-year offices, orientation courses,
    additional free tutoring, etc.) - but many of
    these measures are mostly subject non-specific
  • Drastic differences between high school and
    university in study culture and expectations are
    not taken into account yet

Ontario Statistics
  • One out of 6 high school students takes grade 12
    physics course
  • 95 of them pass the course
  • Overall, much lower success rate is reported in
    the University introductory physics courses

University Introductory Physics
  • Even by conservative estimates
  • Up to 30 of those who attempt introductory
    physics courses, drop these courses and take them
  • Up to 25-30 students fail introductory physics
    courses in their first attempt
  • Minus 15 rule- For those who pass, the grade
    is lower by 15 on average

Adjusting to University
  • First Year Student Survey 2007 at Ryerson
  • A lower percentage of respondents (64 in
    2007 compared to 78 in 2004), reported success
    with performing adequately in courses requiring
    mathematical skills

General Population
  • According to various estimates, only between 0.5
    and 2 of university population major in Physics
  • Phobia of physics
  • The rest
  • Take required physics courses for
    engineering, pre- medical, other science programs
    or have no exposure to physics at all

  • The task of the physics teacher today is to
  • out how to help a much larger fraction of the
  • population understand how the world works, how to
  • think logically, and how to evaluate science

  • Joe Redish

  • Teaching physics can be both inspirational and
  • Joe Redish

What is Physics Education Research (PER)? PER
  • Cognitive mechanism
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Epistemology and attitudes
  • Institutional change
  • Problem solving and reasoning
  • Research methods
  • Socio-cultural mechanisms
  • Student conceptions
  • Teacher education and TA training
  • Effective use of technology in teaching

What Are We Concerned With?
  • empirical investigations of student understanding
  • modeling student learning
  • PER-based curricular materials (development,
    testing, evaluation, implementation)
  • PER-based diagnostic instruments and
    assessments-our research tools 

Practicalities A four-step, Scientific Approach
to Teaching
  • Establish what students should learn
  • Scientifically measure what students are actually
  • Adapt instructional methods and curriculum and
    incorporate effective use of technology and
    pedagogical research to achieve desired learning
  • Share findings, disseminate and adopt what works
  • Four-step approach from Carl
    Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI)

Tools Using Technology in Science Teaching
  • Interactive engagement in large lectures
  • Using live data collection (sensors and probes,
    LoggerPro) to provide students with the
    opportunity to test their ideas about science
  • Using video-based motion analysis
  • Using online computer simulations (PhET) in large
    lectures as well as in labs, tutorials and
    homework assignments
  • Using online interactive homework systems, such
    as MasteringPhysics

Evaluating Impact Action Research
  • To know where we are going
  • Monitoring introduced changes
  • Pre- and post-instruction testing
  • Use of standardized conceptual tests for
    measuring the impact

Science Education Research Groups in Canada
PER in Canada
  • Unlike the USA, Europe, Australia and Latin
    America, there are only few Physics Education
    groups in Canada
  • All PER initiatives in Canada happen despite the
    lack of PER funding on national and provincial
  • These initiatives are initiated by individuals,
    small groups and some universities
  • PER movement in Canada is building from the
    ground up!

Science Education Funding in Canada
Sc. Ed.
Current State of Science Education Funding in
Latest Development Lobbying for Funding Model
  • Lobbying for joint committees of major Canadian
  • granting agencies (NCERS, SSHRC and CIHR) to
  • grant applications in subject-based Science
  • Research
  • Currently the signatures are being collected in
  • support of the initiative of Dr. M.Milner-Bolotin
  • Dr. P.Walden.

Looking Into the Future
  • Physics Education Research (as any subject-based
    science education research) requires consistent
    funding for research and curriculum development
    and evaluation, preferably from national granting
  • Subject-based Science education research (PER in
    particular) should be centered at science
  • Science (physics) departments should be involved
    in the training of science teachers

Despite Current Obstacles A Few Canadian
Post-Secondary Science Education Initiatives
  • University of British Columbia Carl Wieman
    Science Education Initiative (CWSEI) - 12
    million over 5 years, started January 2006.
    Funded by the University.
  • University of Toronto Renovation of
    Undergraduate Physics Labs (studio-based physics
    teaching) - funded mainly by the University
  • Alan Slavins work at Trent University on
    Students Achievements in Introductory Physics

A Few Canadian Post-Secondary Science Education
Initiatives (continued)
  • Ryerson University Hired two tenure track
    physics education faculty at the Department of
    Physics the scope of our PER-related activities
    is growing
  • Perimeter Institute initiatives
  • Toronto District School Board (TDSB) involvement
    with PER
  • University of Calgary Undergraduate Laboratory
    project funded by University, includes hiring
    postdoctoral researcher for PER-Latest

Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI)
  • University of British Columbia Carl Wieman
    Science Education Initiative (CWSEI)
  • 12 million over 5 years, started January 2006.
    Funded by the University.
  • Science Education in the 21st Century Using the
    Tools of Science to Teach Science
  • Achieving the most effective, evidence-based
    science education

Undergraduate Physics Labs at University of
  • Renovation of Undergraduate Physics Labs
    (studio-based physics teaching)
  • 4.7 million
  • State-of-the-art studio both space and equipment
  • Merging laboratory and tutorials, while
    preserving lectures
  • Impact study

The Latest! Calgary Initiative
  • Modernization of Undergraduate Physics Labs
  • Includes hiring a postdoctoral researcher to
    conduct PER
  • 2-year project funded by the University
  • Impact study

Ryerson Developments
  • Ryerson University Hired two tenure track
    physics education faculty at the Department of
    Physics (2004 and 2007)
  • Two more faculty members are involved in PER on a
    part-time basis
  • The scope of our PER-related activities is
    increasing steadily

TDSB Activities
  • Conferences (for example, Eureka in November
  • Growing collaboration with Universities
  • Involvement with OAPT, STAO
  • Involvement with physics teachers training
  • Teachers professional development

  • This is rather a snapshot, not a comprehensive
    account of physics education in Canada
  • Only relatively new developments and trends were
  • We might be not aware of some of the initiatives
    taking place
  • If you happen to know the groups that we did not
    mention, we would like to hear about them!

Physics Education _at_ Ryerson
http// PROGRAMS ?BSc
in Medical Physics ?MSc in Biomedical
Physics ?Applied to OCGS for PhD in Biomedical
Physics ?Long-term goal MSc in Science
(Physics) Education
Our Faculty
  • 15 faculty members (10 in Medical Physics, 2 in
    Physics Education)
  • Largest university-based Biomedical Physics group
    in Ontario
  • Physics Education is designated as our second
    area of expansion (2 full-time and 2 part-time
    faculty members)
  • We believe that we are the only Physics
    Department in Canada which hired tenure-track
    faculty for PER

We Teach
  • Introductory physics courses for over 800
    students in Engineering Programs
  • Introductory physics courses for over 300
    students for Science Program (Medical Physics,
    Chemistry, Biology and Contemporary Science)
  • Our typical undergraduate physics classes have
    lecture section between 100 and 200 students

We Teach (continued)
  • Advanced physics courses for our own
    undergraduate BSc program in Medical Physics
  • Graduate courses for our graduate MSc program in
    Biomedical Physics
  • Several elective courses for Liberal Arts Program
    (including very popular Astronomy course)
  • Innovative Course for Architectural Science
    Program (new!)

Bachelor of Science in Medical Physics at Ryerson
  • A new Bachelor of Science in Medical Physics
    program at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario
    was launched in Fall 2006 (first intake of
    second-year students).
  • Small at first, but very strong group of students
    will graduate after Winter 2009

Bachelor of Science in Medical Physics Program at
Ryerson University
  • Beyond first year courses include such topics as
    radiation therapy, image analysis, medical
    diagnostics and computer modeling techniques.
  • In the final year the students undertake an
    independent, faculty-supervised thesis project in
    an area of personal research interest.

Our Graduate Programs
  • Master of Science in Biomedical Physics launched
    in Fall 2006
  • Our own MSc. Students will graduate this summer
  • Application for PhD program in Biomedical Physics
    is submitted to OCGS
  • Tentative plans for Masters Program in Science
    Education (starting with Physics Education) fit
    well with the Universitys Academic plan

Our PER-Related Activities
  • Common theme the impact of new technologies on
  • students learning
  • Clickers
  • Probe/sensor technologies for real-time data
    acquisition, Logger Pro
  • Interactive computer simulations (PhET)
  • On-line tutoring/homework systems (Mastering
  • Video-based motion analysis
  • Our Goal to implement activity-based,
    inquiry based learning in all our courses

Personal Response Systems
  • Our Department was instrumental in
    University-wide adoption of eInstruction clickers
    in Fall 2007
  • Members of our Department piloted clickers in
    several Physics courses for Science program
    students in 2005-2006
  • Currently clickers are used in several large
    enrollment physics courses for Sciences and
    Engineering programs

Our Ongoing PER Activities
  • Plans for total undergraduate lab renovations (we
    are still in a fundraising stage)
  • Implementation of video-analysis assignments (in
  • Action research in our introductory Physics
    course for Science programs (pre- and post-

High School Physics Courses Experience and
Learning Outcomes in University Introductory
Physics Courses
  • The common introductory physics course for all
    Science Programs (300 students) at Ryerson
    combines the students who took Ontario grade 12
    high school physics or its equivalent, and those
    who did not
  • This natural split allowed us to probe how the
    previous exposure to high school physics
    influences the learning outcomes in the
    university introductory physics courses

Science Programs Classat Ryerson
  • 60 took grade 12 physics course or equivalent
  • 40 did not
  • We teach them in one class

FALL 2007 Did you take high school physics?
  • YES
  • NO
  • (self-identified)

Our Conclusions
  • Although there are huge variations in individual
    performance, statistically, the knowledge gap
    between the two groups (with and without high
    school physics background) does not shrink after
    the instruction.
  • Course dropout rates are significantly higher
    among the students who did not take grade12
    physics or equivalent
  • The high school exposure to sciences does matter!
  • We must communicate this information to the
    students, parents, teachers and high school

Pilot study
  • Impact of Student Major on their Achievement
  • in Introductory Physics
  • Implement pre- and post testing (FCI, FMCE)
  • Implement Attitude Towards Science surveys

Experiential Learning
  • Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin developed innovative
    course (PCS107) for first-year students
    Architectural and Building Science Program
  • Dr. Carl Kumaradas will introduce
    project-based small-group learning in our
  • Introduction to Medical Physics course

High School-University Transition
  • Why to collaborate?
  • Postsecondary and secondary education have
    similar goals to provide successful
    student-centered teaching and learning
  • Face somewhat similar challenges
  • Both systems can benefit from sharing experiences
    and exchanging ideas
  • Help our students with smooth transition from
    high school to university

Mutual University-High School Visits
  • In Fall 2007 David Doucette visited my PCS120
    first year class for students enrolled in
    Sciences Programs
  • I visited grade 11, grade 12 and advanced
    placement physics classes in Davids high school
    in Richmond Hills.
  • University instructors can learn a lot from high
    school teachers group work, inquiry-based
    teaching and student-centered approach

What We Can Offer
  • To send our Faculty to your class to talk about
    Medical Physics and Biophysics
  • To invite your high school classes for a site
    visit at Ryerson
  • Once we get new teaching labs we will be able to
    provide workshops for teachers if needed

Looking Into the Future
  • PER movement is gaining momentum at all levels of
    educational system
  • We hope there will be even more opportunities if
    the funding model problem gets solved
  • The community of educators is ready for a change,
    but the institutional support is needed for
    consistent and sustainable changes

  • 1. Antimirova, T., M. Milner-Bolotin, et al.
    "Physics Education on the Move in Canada"
    Newsletter of the International Consortium on
    Physics Education (ICPE), Spring 2008.
  • 2. Milner-Bolotin, M. and T. Antimirova
    (2007). "Physics Education in Canada Recent
    developments." Canadian Undergraduate Physics
    Journal VI(1) 28-29.

IDEAS Please feel free to contact us
  • Phone (416) 9795000 x 17416
  • Email
  • Tetyana Antimirova
  • Assistant Professor
  • Assistant Chair for the
  • Undergraduate Studies
  • Department of Physics
  • Ryerson University
  • Phone (416) 9795000 x 16538
  • Email
  • Pedro Goldman
  • Professor and Chair
  • Department of Physics
  • Ryerson University

  • We would like to thank Marina Milner-Bolotin for
    providing some materials for this presentation.

Thank you!
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