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Seminar: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. Coffee 3:15 p.m.

Improving students' understanding through research
Dr. Chandralekha Singh
University of Pittsburgh
The goal of physics education research is to help close the gap between teaching and learning. I will discuss, drawing from my own research as examples, how the lessons learned from physics education research can be applied to all STEM disciplines. I will discuss my research that emphasizes the importance of understanding the relevant prior knowledge of students and designing instruction such that it builds on students' existing knowledge. Our research suggests that the difficulty of a problem not only depends on its inherent complexity but on the familiarity and intuition one has developed about it. Our research also suggests that students should be taught effective problem solving strategies explicitly while they acquire content knowledge because everyday life does not prepare students for the disciplined approach to problem solving required to solve complex problems in the STEM disciplines. Finally, I will discuss why instructional approach should value and encourage students to be actively engaged and work with each other and provide examples of how such collaboration gives students an opportunity to be able to solve problems that each student alone may not be able to solve.