Ryan Sayer

rts36@pitt.edu

Research

REPLICATING EFFECTIVE PEDAGOGICAL APPROACHES FROM INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS TO IMPROVE STUDENT LEARNING OF QUANTUM MECHANICSĀ 

Upper-level undergraduate students entering a quantum mechanics (QM) course are in many ways similar to students entering an introductory physics course. Numerous studies have investigated the difficulties that novices face in introductory physics as well as the pedagogical approaches that are effective in helping them overcome those difficulties. My research focuses on replicating effective approaches and instructional strategies used in introductory physics courses to help advanced students in an upper-level QM course. I have investigated the use of Just-in-time Teaching (JiTT) and peer discussion involving clicker questions in an upper-level quantum mechanics course. The JiTT approach including peer discussions was effective in helping students overcome their difficulties and improve their understanding of QM concepts. Learning tools, such as a Quantum Interactive Learning Tutorial (QuILT) based on the Double-slit Experiment (DSE) which I helped develop, have been successful in helping upper-level undergraduate students improve their understanding of QM. Many students have also demonstrated the ability to transfer knowledge from a QuILT based on the Mach-Zehnder interferometer while working on the DSE QuILT. In addition, I have been involved in implementing research-based activities during our semester-long professional development course for teaching assistants (TAs). In one intervention, TAs were asked to grade student solutions to introductory physics problems first using their choice of method, then again using a rubric designed to promote effective problem-solving approaches, then once more at the end of the semester using their choice of method. This intervention found that many TAs have ingrained beliefs about the purposes of grading which include placing the burden of proof on the instructor as well as a belief that grading cannot serve as a formative assessment. I also compared TAs grading practices and considerations when grading student solutions to QM problems versus when grading student solutions to introductory physics. Many TAs penalized students for not explicating the problem solving process more often in the QM context than in the introductory physics context. The implications of these interventions for promoting student learning in QM are discussed.

Dissertation

Major

Physics

Degree

PhD

Graduate Advisor

Chandralekha Singh