Why do I teach in FSU’s Studio Physics Program? Because I am able to look in the mirror in the morning and know I’m doing the best thing for the students in my class.

2d_energy

Graduate teaching assistant Danielle Simmons analyzes video data for the trajectory of a tennis ball thrown by graduate teaching assistant Cole Hensley and caught by undergraduate learning assistant Ben Gibson while developing a new lab exercise on the conservation of energy in two dimensional projectile motion.  The lab is being developed in response to a recommendation made by recent FSU Physics B.S. grad and new Apopka High School physics teacher Cody Smith in his Honors Thesis on student learning of energy concepts in FSU’s studio physics classes.  The thesis was completed this past summer.  The lab will be taught for the first time during the week of October 15.

free_fallin

physics_today

A page from the magazine Physics Today featuring a scene from an FSU Studio Physics classroom.  The article, written by Jennifer Blue, Adrienne Traxler and Ximena Cid, argued that the SCALE-UP model used by the Studio Physics Program improve outcomes for underrepresented students including women and students of color. 

engage_to_excel

The cover of the 2012 PCAST report “Engage to Excel” on undergraduate STEM education, which called for reform in the way introductory STEM courses are taught at universities.

From the Executive Summary of “Engage to Excel”:

Economic projections point to a need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology. To meet this goal, the United States will need to increase the number of students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees by about 34% annually over current rates.

Currently the United States graduates about 300,000 bachelor and associate degrees in STEM fields annually. Fewer than 40% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. Increasing the retention of STEM majors from 40% to 50% would, alone, generate three quarters of the targeted 1 million additional STEM degrees over the next decade. Many of those who abandon STEM majors perform well in their introductory courses and would make valuable additions to the STEM workforce. Retaining more students in STEM majors is the lowest-cost, fastest policy option to providing the STEM professionals that the nation needs for economic and societal well-being, and will not require expanding the number or size of introductory courses, which are constrained by space and resources at many colleges and universities.

The reasons students give for abandoning STEM majors point to the retention strategies that are needed. For example, high-performing students frequently cite uninspiring introductory courses as a factor in their choice to switch majors. And low-performing students with a high interest and aptitude in STEM careers often have difficulty with the math required in introductory STEM courses with little help provided by their universities. Moreover, many students, and particularly members of groups underrepresented in STEM fields, cite an unwelcoming atmosphere from faculty in STEM courses as a reason for their departure.

Better teaching methods are needed by university faculty to make courses more inspiring, provide more help to students facing mathematical challenges, and to create an atmosphere of a community of STEM learners. Traditional teaching methods have trained many STEM professionals, including most of the current STEM workforce. But a large and growing body of research indicates that STEM education can be substantially improved through a diversification of teaching methods. These data show that evidence-based teaching methods are more effective in reaching all students—especially the “underrepresented majority”—the women and members of minority groups who now constitute approximately 70% of college students while being underrepresented among students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees (approximately 45%). This underrepresented majority is a large potential source of STEM professionals.

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