Beyond the Lecture: What Have We Learned from Physics Education Research?

John W. Farley
Dept of Physics and Astronomy
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Talk at Missouri University of Science and Technology
October 5, 2012

In recent decades, physics research has been dramatically transformed by the use of computers, lasers, and automated instruments. In contrast, physics education has changed very little. Traditional lectures reign supreme. The new discipline of physics education research has applied the scientific method to the process of teaching and learning. A critical advance is the use of pre- and post-testing of classes to measure student learning. One surprising conclusion is that traditional lecturing is remarkably ineffective. I discuss a number of ways in which teaching can be improved, using pedagogy that is more effective than traditional lecturing. Finally, I discuss the NSF-funded physics Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at UNLV, one of the longest-running REU programs in the country, which teaches undergraduates how to conduct physics research.