Ann S. Bowers Assistant Professor
My lab studies teaching and learning in physics and other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. We study research questions such as how students acquire skills or content knowledge, how different course environments affect students’ motivation or their persistence in physics (or other STEM fields), or how they develop an understanding of the nature of science and scientific measurement. We spend considerable time worrying about how we know what outcomes are being achieved and what mechanisms are responsible those outcomes. We use both qualitative (e.g. observations, interviews, and focus groups) and quantitative methods (e.g. test scores, instances of pre-defined actions or activities) to explore the many possible variables that affect student learning and their experiences in physics and STEM courses.
Compelling, data-driven national reports call for changes in the way STEM courses are taught at the college level. Many of the changes focus on helping students learn about core concepts and problem solving instead of concentrating on memorized facts. Although institutions are striving to make changes, understanding what classroom techniques help students learn, how to effectively assess learning, and how to support faculty who implement change is a complex research endeavor. My lab, which engages undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and university faculty, works on these teaching and learning topics. I am also the Editor-in-Chief of CourseSource. CourseSource is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that publishes undergraduate life science teaching resources that have been developed with evidence-based pedagogical techniques.
I am a DBER (Discipline-Based Education Research) postdoc working with Natasha Holmes (Physics) and Mark Sarvary (Biology) on developing and assessing critical thinking skills in the Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratories (BioG-1500). I have a variety of teaching and outreach education experiences as well as a background in animal behavior research, and I bring this training and perspective to studying the human animal and how we learn biology in the laboratory setting.
My postdoc research project centers on studying the transition in instruction from high school to college STEM classes. I am working with faculty member Michelle Smith in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department along with collaborators at two other universities to study the predictions and expectations students have about instructional practices upon entering large introductory college STEM classes. We are also working with faculty through the Provost’s Gateway Course Data working group to learn how to help faculty better support students during this key transition time.
My research interests lie broadly in physics education research. Currently, I’m working on the redevelopment and evaluation of six introductory physics labs through an Active Learning Initiative grant from the College of Arts and Sciences. We are incorporating research-based strategies to assist students in achieving departmental learning objectives for introductory laboratory experiences and developing ways to evaluate students’ progress toward these learning objectives. Previously, I have been involved with the development of Customizable Computer Coaches for Physics Online (C3PO) at University of Minnesota--Twin Cities and with research into middle-division physics students’ understanding of mathematics in the Paradigms in Physics Program at Oregon State University.
I did my Master’s research on atom probe tomography of solid-state quantum logic devices. I found my interest in pedagogy by leading an institution-level instructional reform at the Naval Nuclear Power School. My research interests are broad; they include course transformation in graduate-level physics, unifying models of cognition, and non-cognitive learning outcomes in introductory physics.
Through my Graduate Research Teaching Fellowship, I am also working on using virtual reality (VR) in physics/astronomy education. My current project involves building a realistic Sun+Earth+Moon simulation in Unity for the Oculus Rift and developing experiences to teach Moon phases. We are trying to see if such an experience in VR is better at teaching spatial/temporal concepts, like Moon phases, than more traditional computer-based lessons. Website
I am a PhD candidate in physics, and my research focus is split between two main areas. My first project is in physics education research, and I am working with Prof. Holmes to design an assessment that characterizes students' critical thinking and reasoning skill in introductory lab courses. For my second project, I am applying techniques from information geometry to better understand the constraints on the cold dark matter cosmological model for cosmic microwave background spectra, to better understand well and ill constrained parameter combinations to aid in experimental design.
Measuring critical thinking during physics labs; Understanding student confirmation bias during intro physics labs
Student learning from flipped classrooms; Measuring shifts in student reasoning
I am a Ph.D student in physics working with Prof. Holmes in PER. Previously, I developed an automated administration system for the PLIC to make delivery of the assessment to instructors and students easier and more efficient. Lately, I’ve been working on validation projects related to the PLIC, as well as conducting separate analyses using tools from machine-learning and network analysis.
I am a Master of Engineering student in Applied and Engineering Physics, working to evaluate the redesign of the introductory physics laboratory courses. We are looking at the differences in student behavior in introductory physics versus biology labs as well as before and after the laboratory redesign.
I am an undergraduate student interested in Astronomy and Physics. I work with Professor Holmes to understand the interaction of gender in introductory physics labs, as well as trying to understand overall student behavior. I also work on the Zeus-II and Hirmes spectrometers in the Astronomy department.