Contact Info

Primary Title: 
Professor and Chair
Oregon State University

Office: Weniger 403,

I am interested in all aspects of education, but in particular I like to focus on improving our large
lower division service courses. If we keep using traditional lecture courses student learning will
be the same as in MOOCs. Neither of these are very effective, but at a university we have many
options to do better, even with the challenges of large classes. In addition, based on the NAEP reports,
we see that with the increasing number of students we also see a large increase in the number of
students whose study skills are still developing, and who will need help in that arena.

I have been involved in issues around teaching since the early days of PhysTEC, when we were still
part of that organization. My first introduction to the issues on a practical level came when I team-taught,
in the true meaning of the word which implies being together in the classroom all the time,
the large introductory calculus-level physics course (250 students) with a retired high school
teacher, Pat Canan. Funding for this was obtained through the Hewlett Foundation’s project at
OSU to improve undergraduate engineering education. We used response units and white boards to engage
students in the large lecture course in thinking about physical phenomena. The aim of this project
was to learn about Pat Canan’s modeling problem solving techniques and their effectiveness.

I also team-taught this course with a new postdoctoral fellow, which confirmed my believe that
institutionalization, is essential and non-trivial. As Carl Wieman has said, the current challenge is
to bring reform to the classroom and change people's ways of teaching to incorporate new but
by now well established methods into their arsenal. I worked with Dedra Demaree and Dave Bannon
to help the latter become familiar with how to run scale-up classrooms. This experience gives me the beginning
of ideas what it takes to make new methods part of the existing organization.


Research Description: