Active Learning Strategies for Algebra-based Introductory Physics Courses at UCF

Project No.
PI Name
Talat Rahman
Uinversity of Central Florida


Abstract 1

Active Learning Strategies for Algebra-based Introductory Physics Courses at UCF

Presentation Type
Talat Rahman, University of Central Florida Jacquelyn Chini, University of Central Florida Abdelkader Kara, University of Central Florida Archana Dubey, University of Central Florida Elena Flitsiyan, University of Central Florida


A great volume of collective instructional experience on the years reveal tremendous need to enhance student learning of physics concepts, to solidify problem-solving skills, to facilitate faculty professional development, and to promote class attendance ヨ all of which should contribute to better retention in STEM disciplines.


The overarching goal of the project is to improve studentsメ conceptual understanding, problem solving skills and science learning attitudes in introductory algebra-based physics at UCF.


The development of active-engagement curricula based on the constructivist model of student thinking and learning has led to two approaches that best fit our purposes: ministudios with lectures (MSL) and full studio (FS). These two frameworks allow diversity in approach to suit student/instructor styles and ease in transition from lecture-centered formats. Furthermore, we utilize assessments that value deep conceptual learning, expert-like problem-solving skills, ability to apply physics to everyday settings, and positive science attitudes. Our approach integrates lecture, laboratory, problem solving, and out-of-class projects to enable students to see the connections among these activities and to transfer their learning from one to another. By providing graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and undergraduate learning assistants (LAs) mandatory pedagogical training, our approach empowers them as facilitators of student learning, thereby contributing to their own professional development. It also enhances their science communication skills and helps recruit talented students for futures in science education.


The learning gain evaluations carried out in courses in which mini-studios have been introduced, show promising results. These gains are evaluated using pre- and post-test (Force Concept Inventory and Concepts in Electricity and Magnetism). Student�s attitudes towards the course evaluated using CLASS also show promising results. A number of our LAs and GTs have opted for careers in physics education.

Broader Impacts

The demographics of the area around UCF, and its growing student body (UCF is already the 2nd largest university in the country), result in a large number of students from Hispanic, African American, and other disadvantaged groups. The Orlando Metropolitan Area is home to many migrants, many of whom do not hold college degrees. At the best-performing public high school in the Orlando area the rate of students proceeding to college is about 40%. As a consequence, almost half of UCF�s incoming students are the first in their family to attend college. The broader impacts of this project are thus obvious: it positively affect a large number of students many of whom are from diverse and underprivileged backgrounds. The collaborative environment fostered by the MSL and FS formats also helps ease the transition for students from two-year schools, who are often used to a more communal approach than they experience in our large introductory courses. Furthermore, the development of the MSL format allows for professional development of faculty, GTAs and LAs in a setting more familiar than that afforded by FS, and enable them to make a smooth transition to effectively teach FS in the future, if so desired. Additionally, the MSL format offers a way for departments prohibited by cost, space and interest to offer studio-mode instruction to their students without the radical changes necessary for such curricula as SCALE-UP.

Unexpected Challenges



1. モLearning from Avatars: Learning Assistants Practice Physics Pedagogy in a Classroom Simulator,ヤ Jacquelyn J. Chini, Carrie Straub and Kevin Thomas (accepted for Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research, Focused Collection on Preparing and Supporting University Physics Educators.)
2. モComparing Traditional and Studio Courses through Gains and Losses,ヤ Jacquelyn J. Chini and Jarrad W. T. Pond, Proceedings of the 2014 Physics Education Research Conference, July 30-31, 2014, Minneapolis, MN.