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Page history last edited by Jessica 10 years, 3 months ago


paper in the Physics Education Research Conference proceedings, Portland, OR, July 2010


Understanding How Students Use Physical Ideas in Introductory Biology Courses

Jessica Watkins, Kristi Hall, Edward F. Redish, and Todd J. Cooke


The University of Maryland Biology and Physics Education Research Groups are investigating students’ views about the role of physics in introductory biology courses. The Bio 2010 report emphasized the value of integrating physics, mathematics, and chemistry into the undergraduate biology curriculum. This paper presents data from an introductory course that addresses the fundamental principles of organismal biology. This course incorporates several topics directly related to physics, including thermodynamics, diffusion, and fluid flow. We examine pre- and post-attitude survey, interview, and class observation data to establish how students consider and employ these physical ideas in the context of their biology course. These results have broad implications as physics instructors consider reforms to meet the interdisciplinary challenges of Bio 2010.



paper in the American Education Research Association conference proceedings, New Orleans, April 2011


Examining the Impact of Student Expectations on Undergraduate Biology Education Reform

Kristi L. Hall, Jessica E. Watkins, Janet E. Coffey, Todd J. Cooke, Edward F. Redish


The past 10-15 years have seen numerous calls for curricular reform in undergraduate biology education, most of which focus on changes to curriculum or pedagogy. Data collected from students in a large introductory undergraduate biology course indicate that student expectations about the nature of the knowledge they were learning influence how they interacted with reform efforts in that class. Given that student expectations influence the ways in which they participate in course activities, this paper (the first in a series that looks at student expectations in biology) argues that curriculum reform initiatives should consider student expectations in order to increase the chance for effective implementation.



paper submitted to the Physics Education Research Conference proceedings, Omaha, NE, July 2011


Students’ Views of Macroscopic and Microscopic Energy in Physics and Biology

Ben W. Dreyfus, Edward F. Redish, Jessica E. Watkins


Energy concepts are fundamental across the sciences, yet these concepts can be fragmented along disciplinary 

boundaries, rather than integrated into a coherent whole.   To teach physics effectively to biology students, we need to understand students’ disciplinary perspectives.  We present interview data from an undergraduate student who displays multiple stances towards the concept of energy.  At times he views energy in macroscopic contexts as a separate entity from energy in microscopic (particularly biological) contexts, while at other times he uses macroscopic physics phenomena as productive analogies for understanding energy in the microscopic biological context, and he reasons about energy transformations between the microscopic and macroscopic scales.  This case study displays preliminary evidence for the context dependence of students’ ability to translate energy concepts across scientific disciplines.  This points to challenges that must be taken into account in developing curricula for biology students that integrate physics and biology concepts.



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