University of Pittsburgh

Chandralekha Singh

Professor/Director dB-SERC
Contact:
University of Pittsburgh
221A Allen Hall

(412) 624-9045
(412) 624-9045 (fax)
clsingh@pitt.edu

Research

The goal of my research is to identify sources of student difficulties in learning physics both at the introductory and advanced levels, and to design, implement, and assess curricula/pedagogies that may significantly reduce these difficulties. The objective is to enable students at all levels to develop critical thinking skills, and to become good problem solvers and independent learners.

Below are examples of investigations in both the introductory and advanced courses we are pursuing:


  • Difficulties in learning Quantum Mechanics and tutorial development: We have been investigating the difficulties that advanced undergraduate students have in learning quantum physics by designing surveys and interviewing individual students. We find that the difficulties and misconceptions displayed by advanced students are largely independent of their background, teaching style, and textbook similar to those documented for introductory physics. We are currently developing and evaluating tutorials for helping students learn various topics in advanced quantum mechanics.

  • Introductory level topics: We have been investigating the difficulties that introductory students have with energy and momentum concepts, symmetry and Gauss's law, magnetism, and rotational and rolling motion concept. We have developed and administered free–response and multiple–choice questions and conducted interviews with individual students using think–aloud protocol to understand their difficulties. We have developed tutorials to help students learn superposition, symmetry, and Gauss's law.

  • Cognitive issues in learning physics: We are interested in researching the connection between student difficulties in learning physics and models of cognition. For example, we want to understand how physical intuition develops and how the problem solving strategies of individuals at different levels of expertise in physics shows similaritities and differences when physical intuition fails. We are also investigating how expertise develops in the context of learning physics.

  • Teaching effective problem solving: We are currently investigating the extent to which students can be taught effective problem solving heuristics. We are developing video–tutorials that help students learn effective problem solving strategies using concrete examples in an interactive environment. The tutorials are designed to provide scaffolding support and help students view the problem solving process as an opportunity for knowledge and skill acquisition rather than a "plug and chug" chore. Preliminary evaluations are encouraging.

Publications

  • "Student understanding of quantum mechanics," C. Singh, Am. J. Phys. 69(8), 885-896, 2001.
  • "When physical intuition fails," C. Singh, Am. J. Phys 70(11), 1103-1109, 2002.
  • "Impact of peer interaction on conceptual test performance," C. Singh, Am. J. Phys., 73(5), 446-451, 2005.
  • "Student understanding of rotational and rolling motion," L. Rimoldini and C. Singh, Phys. Rev. ST PER, 1, 010102, 2005.
  • "Improving students’ understanding of quantum mechanics," C. Singh, M. Belloni, W. Christian, Physics Today, 43-49, August 2006.

Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Pittsburgh
100 Allen Hall
3941 O'Hara St
Pittsburgh PA 15260
O: (412) 624-9000 | F: (412) 624-9163

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