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The Deconstruction of Our Reconstruction. 2009 AAPT Spin-Up Regional Conference June 19, 2009 Marquette University Milwaukee, WI Marty Johnston University of St. Thomas St. Paul, MN. Ten years ago at the University of St. Thomas …. 0 graduates + a handful majors = 1 big pit in my stomach.

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The Deconstruction of Our Reconstruction

2009 AAPT Spin-Up Regional Conference

June 19, 2009

Marquette University

Milwaukee, WI

Marty Johnston

University of St. Thomas

St. Paul, MN


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Ten years ago at the University of St. Thomas …

0 graduates + a handful majors = 1 big pit in my stomach


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Just three years before in the fall of 1995

it had all seemed so clear…

We had some great ingredients

So why wasn’t it working?

Where were all the students?

Move to the new building

Write successful some grants

Start undergraduate research projects

Rejuvenate the student club …


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We had problems that went deeper

than more floor space and new equipment

- We had no real sense of community -

We didn’t work as a team – everyone was working hard on their own agenda

Great – if you are aligned

Ok - if you are orthogonal in purpose

Problematic – if you are at odds with each other


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We had problems that went deeper

than more floor space and new equipment

- We had no real sense of community -

- We lacked a vision – not sure who we were -

Without a unified vision it was difficult to

resolve operational differences


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What to do?

We faced our differences

and started developing

a unified and comprehensive

vision and philosophy


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What to do?

We faced our differences

and started developing

a unified and comprehensive

vision and philosophy

… not nearly as easy as I thought it would be …

Found common ground by focusing on the

characteristics of our successful students


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Characteristics of Our Successful Students…

  • Could tackle real problems with messy and ill-defined boundary conditions.

  • Were happy if you just threw them a manual and a reasonably clear statement of the problem.

  • Didn’t differentiate between analytical, experimental, and computational skills – they used them all as needed to solve the problem at hand.

  • Although we took pride in our successful students, we had to ask, to what extent had our curriculum led to their success?


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The Problem…

  • Our curriculum was out of balance and lacked integration.

  • The traditional topics were covered – but they were not connected together in a meaningful manner.

  • Many important ideas and skills that we observed in our best students were not explicitly imbedded into the curriculum.


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What

We Taught

Analytical

Experimental

Computational

Communication

What We

Wanted

Analytical

Experimental

Computational

Communication

The Problem…

- Vs -


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Our Goal…

Revitalize our curriculum by

  • Revising existing courses by increasing the experimental, computational and communication content in all of the courses

New Departmental Mission:

Both inside and outside the classroom, the University of St. Thomas Physics Department provides undergraduate students with a broad understanding and appreciation for physics, cultivates problem solving skills involving analytical, experimental and computational techniques and teaches how to effectively communicate technical ideas. We strive to instill values that enable individuals to responsibly engage the world they live in.


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Our Goal…

Revitalize our curriculum by

  • Emphasizing interconnections between courses

e.g. redesigned the optics course to emphasize of E&M principles introduced in our E&M sequence with applications from biology


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Our Goal…

Revitalize our curriculum by

  • Bringing in missing concepts and skills


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Our Goal…

Revitalize our curriculum by

  • Bringing in missing concepts and skills

  • CISC130 - Introduction Programming and Problem Solving in the Sciences

  • MATH 240 - Linear Algebra

  • PHYS 215 - Foundations of Modern Physics: From the Atom to the Big Bang

  • PHYS 225 - Applications of Modern Physics: From the Atom to the Diode

  • PHYS 323 – Methods of Experimental Physics

  • 5. Transitional Undergraduate Research

  • Getting them in the laboratory before they’re ready to leave


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PHYS 323 Experimental Methods:Bridge Between the Introductory Courses and the Upper Level Curriculum

  • Bringing in missing concepts and skills …

  • Develops systematic problem solving skills by working on a singlecomplicated experimental investigation over an entire semester.

  • Builds on physical concepts they are familiar with as they learn new mathematics, build instrumentation, write code, learn how to communicate, and develop the confidence that helps them tackle the challenges of upper level courses.


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PHYS 323 Experimental Methods:Bridge Between the Introductory Courses and the Upper Level Curriculum


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Transitional Undergraduate Research:

  • Bringing in missing concepts and skills …

  • Tie undergraduate research efforts to topics introduced in the introductory and transition courses

  • Students excited and productive in the lab

  • Requires flexible faculty

Our Current Efforts Tied to Introductory and Transitional Courses:

Non-linear Systems and Complexity (Jalkio, Johnston, Ohmann)

Quantum Dots (Lopez del Puerto, Green)

Astronomical Data Mining (Ruch, Jalkio)


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Tracking Curricular Change…

1998-99 2005-06 2008-09


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Ok, so you made all those curricular changes, what happened to the program?

We Grew …

We hadn’t focused on increasing students

– but it naturally came about

By paying attention to our mission

we moved from

Graduating 1 to none / year to 10 to 12



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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

    Who are you?

    What do you want to accomplish?

    How will you work to achieve your goal?


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • One person might initiate curricular revision, but they can seldom maintain it.


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Work in a collaborative manner.

e.g. Computation often suffers due to the lack of faculty familiarity with computational tools. Faculty members will need help and time to develop computational skills


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

A key characteristic of a thriving department is the active involvement of a substantial majority of the faculty.

R.C Hilborn, R.H. Howes, and K.S.Krane, Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics: Project Report, AAPT, 2003 (SPIN-UP)


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Learn From Others


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Learn From Others… to the program?

Three models that influenced our program

  • Oregon State’s Paradigms of Physics

    • Weave analytical, experimental and computation elements into an integrated discussion.

      C.A. Manogue et. al. Am. J. Phys., vol. 69, no. 9, 2001, pp 978-990

  • Clark University

    • Computation plays a role in the development of new physics.

    • The infusion of computational methods throughout the curriculum is essential.

      H. Gould, Computer Physics Comm., vol. 127, no 1, 2000, pp. 6-10

  • Lawrence University

    • Introduce computational techniques early in the curriculum.

    • Computation should permeate the curriculum.

      D.M. Cook, Proc. Int’l Conf. Computational Science (ICCS), LNCS 2073, V.N. Alexandrov et.al. eds., Springer 2001 pp. 1074-1083


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Learn From Others… to the program?

Essential Reading:

  • Strategic Programs for Innovation in Undergraduate Physics: Project Report

    edited by Robert C. Hilborn, Ruth H. Howes. Kenneth S. Krane

    published by American Association of Physics Teachers, 2003

  • Strategic Programs for Innovation in Undergraduate Physics at Two-Year Colleges: Best Practices of Physics Programs

    by Mary Beth Monroe, Thomas L O’Kuma, Warren Hein

    edited by Melanie J. Norton

    published by American Association of Physics Teachers, 2005

  • Improving Undergraduate Instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Report of a Workshop

    Published by The National Academies Press, 2003

    ISBN 0-309-50968-8 (available on Amazon)


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Learn From Others

  • Build Allies

    Our Partners

    • Computer Science

    • Engineering, Mathematics

    • Education


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Learn From Others

  • Build Allies

  • Value Curricular Reform


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Value Curricular Reform… to the program?

  • Align Faculty Expectations with Mission

  • Value the Development of Course Material

    at the Departmental Level

  • Treat Development as Scholarship


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Value Curricular Reform… to the program?

Boyer Model of Scholarship

  • Scholarship of Discovery (Basic Research)

  • Scholarship of Application (Applied Research)

  • Scholarship of Integration (Interdisciplinary Collaboration)

  • Scholarship of Teaching (Development of Pedagogy)

    Common to all are standards of excellence that can be evaluated.

    E. L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate,

    Carnegie Foundation, 1990, pp. 15-25

    C. E. Glassick, M. T. Huber, and G. I. Maeroff, Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Priorities of the Professorate, Carnegie Foundation, 1996, pp. 22-36


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Learn From Others

  • Build Allies

  • Value Curricular Reform

  • Build in Assessment

Don’t run open loop – feedback keeps systems healthy


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Learn From Others

  • Build Allies

  • Value Curricular Reform

  • Build in Assessment

  • Hire and Mentor Carefully


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For us, mission fit is as important as specialization. to the program?

The faculty you hire need to understand the program they are joining.


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Learn From Others

  • Build Allies

  • Value Curricular Reform

  • Build in Assessment

  • Hire and Mentor Carefully

  • Be Patient


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Remember, change takes time. to the program?

The successful programs that inspired our changes shared the following characteristics:

  • Large-Scale Faculty Support

  • Long-Term Commitment to the Revision

  • Healthy Programs Continue to Evolve


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Building a Healthy Program… to the program?

  • Develop a Clear Mission and Vision

  • Be Inclusive

  • Learn From Others

  • Build Allies

  • Value Curricular Reform

  • Build in Assessment

  • Hire and Mentor Carefully

  • Be Patient

While we’re nowhere close to being done, our program is vibrant and we can say with confidence that the student’s skills are due to the curriculum, not in spite of it.