Available Physics Education research projects:
During the past years, quantum mechanics has become part of the secondary school curriculum in many countries. Different countries address different topics (Stadermann, van den Berg, & Goedhart, 2019), and use different approaches and teaching strategies (Krijtenburg-Lewerissa, Pol, Brinkman, & Van Joolingen, 2017). In order to adequately compare these approaches and strategies, there is a need for a reliable and valid concept test which is applicable in different educational settings and curricula. Within the context of the ‘Quantum Flagship’ pilots, Philipp Bitzenbauer and Kim Krijtenburg-Lewerissa have taken the initiative to develop such a test in collaboration with a large group of European educational researchers. This pilot focuses on the collection and development of test items, and the qualitative evaluation of these test items (see Figure 1).
In this project you will contribute to this pilot by evaluating and (re)designing test items on the conceptual understanding of quantum mechanics. For this you have to prepare and conduct interviews, design lessons in which students’ understanding can be evaluated, and qualitatively analyze the data coming from these interviews and lessons.
Krijtenburg-Lewerissa, K., Pol, H. J., Brinkman, A., & Van Joolingen, W. (2017). Insights into teaching quantum mechanics in secondary and lower undergraduate education. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 13(1), 010109.
Stadermann, H., van den Berg, E., & Goedhart, M. (2019). Analysis of secondary school quantum physics curricula of 15 different countries: Different perspectives on a challenging topic. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 15(1), 010130.
Project supervisors: Erik van Sebille and Wouter van Joolingen
In 2013, we developed the website plasticadrift.org, where visitors can explore how ocean currents transport floating material such as plastic litter around the globe. While the website is a huge success, more than 350,000 visitors and exposure on platforms including the Guardian, the website is not much more now than a fun tool for most visitors.
Ideally, the plasticadrift.org website would have more background and for example a lesson plan associated with it, that schoolteachers can use to discuss the problem of plastic pollution with their pupils. Content can be drawn from the ‘All about plastic soup’ webportal, hosted at Utrecht University. Also, students could get interested in the backgrounds and methods behind the model that drives the site; this could also more clearly be explained.
In this project, you will develop, implement and test a lesson plan for either primary or secondary school (tbd), based around the plasticadrift.org website. You will make sure the lesson plan aligns with the relevant curricula. You will create a set of questions and assignments based on the plasticadrift.org website and research how they influence students’ reasoning about the way plastics are transported over the oceans and/or how we are able to predict these plastic flows, i.e. understanding the science behind plastic pollution.
 See http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2014.09.002 for a scientific publication on the method behind the tool
Project supervisors: Erik van Sebille and Wouter van Joolingen
Climate Change and Plastic Pollution are two of the most pressing environmental problems. Both are linked to overconsumption and our wasteful lifestyle. Hence, for many people the two are expressions of the same underlying cause.
On the other hand, effective solutions to Climate Change might increase the amount of Plastic Pollution. An example of this is the case of the shrink-wrapped cucumber in the supermarket: the extra plastic wrapper increases shelf life and hence reduced spillage in the supermarket, and thereby the amount of energy per sold cucumber. Similarly, effective solutions to the Plastic Pollution problem, such as glass recyclable containers, might increase carbon emissions for transport, thereby exacerbating Climate Change.
In the public discussion, the two topics are also differently viewed. Where the causes and impacts of climate change are (still) fiercely debated in some communities and media, plastic pollution is far less contested; there are hardly any ‘plastic-sceptics’.
For academics working on climate change and plastic pollution, these ‘confusions’ in the public perceptions and debate complicate engagement. The two topics are intertwined in some respects but clearly different in others. The question is thus how the public perceives this nexus between plastic pollution and climate change. How can the relation between climate change and plastic pollution best be discussed?
In this project, you will work within the ‘Tracking Of Plastics In Our Seas’ (topios.org) project and the Freudenthal Institute to explore the nexus between plastic pollution and climate change in public engagement, and to help the team with their outreach activities.
Contact: Ralph Meulenbroeks (email@example.com)
Within the physics teacher program special relativity, quantum mechanics, and particle physics. have become central subjects, since they are part of the secondary school curriculum but many teachers are not “fluent” in the subjects. Therefore, blended courses within the natk4all curriculum (www.natk4all.nl), aiming at a Bachelor 1 physics level, have been developed.
The proposed project encompasses research on intrinsic motivation and learning outcomes for the courses. Intrinsic motivation, a robust predictor of performance in almost any field, will be measured using questionnaires and analysis of actual decisions. Learning outcomes will be studied using pre- and posttests, quality analysis of discussions (online/offline), and focus groups. Within this challenging, extensive study, there is room for one or two master students.
This research project contributes to an investigation of long term effects of curriculum reform projects on textbooks, exams and teacher practice. The result of the project will help to answer the overarching question which factors over a longer period stimulate or impede that curriculum innovation ideals are realized in teachers’ practice.
The case of study is physics education in upper secondary education (havo/vwo) in The Netherlands, since 1970.
The focus of this research project is on the national exams. Questions are:
how do exam tasks over the years reflect changes in curriculum content and pedagogical approaches as intended by the major curriculum reform projects?
what information, prescriptions and beliefs have influenced designers of exam tasks and the Board of Examinations (College voor Toetsen en Examens and it predecessors) in their decisions on the design specifications of exam tasks?
For the first of these questions, a scheme of indicators will be developed to analyze exam tasks. For this scheme, an existing instrument can be adapted, which has been used to analyze textbooks and project and policy documents. For the second question, interviews will be held. The interview questions will be designed on the basis of literature and tried out in test interviews.
Kuiper, W. (2009). Curriculumevaluatie en verantwoorde vernieuwing van bètaonderwijs. Enschede: SLO, Rede uitgesproken bij de aanvaarding van het ambt van bijzonder hoogleraar Curriculumevaluatie met betrekking tot het bètaonderwijs aan de Faculteit Bètawetenschappen, Universiteit Utrecht.
In the first round of the physics Olympiad for lower secondary education whole classes participate. The percentage of girls is then around 50%. In the second round of 2018 and 2019, the percentage of girls already diminished to about 20%. Boys score better on the digital questions in the first round. In the final round the girls percentage is still about 20% and the score on the questions is the same as that of the boys.
In the Physics Olympiad for upper secondary education, the percentage of women in the first round is about 40%. In the second round with about 100 students, the percentage of girls is only 15%. In the final round only 1 girl out of 20 participants was present.
When 40% of the girls in lower secondary education in the Netherlands choose for a more science oriented path in upper secondary, you may expect that at least 40% of the girls will reach the second round of the lower secondary Physics Olympiad. What is the course of the lower achievement?
In this project you will search for possible causes of this lower achievement. A former project investigated the questions but found no indications that the kind of questions or formulation is a cause. Some schools score better with girls, what makes the difference in these schools that girls score better? Are there other possible causes? We can use one or two students in this research.
The preliminary rounds of the Physics Olympiads are digital now. The answers can therefore be used for research on gender, preconceptions and alike.
McCullough L (2004) Gender, Context, and Physics Assessment, Journal of international Women’s Studies 5-4, p 20-30
OECD. (2016b). PISA 2015 results: Excellence and equity in education (Vol. 1). Paris, France: Author.
Lorenzo M etal (2006) Reducing the gender gap in the physics classroom, am j phys 74-2, p 118-122
Nafis I Karim et al (2018) Do evidence-based active-engagement courses reduce the gender gap in introductory physics? Eur. J. Phys. 39-2,
Mooldijk A & van der Laan J (2019) De Natuurkunde Olympiade Digitaal, NVOX, 44-1, p 8-9
Contact: Rayendra Bachtiar
Supervisor: Ralph Meulenbroeks or Wouter van Joolingen
Mechanistic reasoning is a valuable thinking strategy, in which physical phenomena are systematically organized in “entities” and “activities of entities” (Russ, Scherr, Hammer, & Mikeska, 2008). Many studies show that engaging students in certain types of modeling stimulates them to reason mechanistically. However, full mechanistic reasoning appears to be difficult to reach.
In the present study we ask students to construct a model of a physical phenomenon by having them create a stop-motion animation and ask them to explain their animation afterwards. So far we have found that the nature of the construction of a stop-motion animation, chunking and sequencing” (Hoban & Nielsen, 2010), does induce students reasoning in mechanistic ways. We found that 9th-grade students’ level of mechanistic reasoning increased during the construction of stop-motion animations about a ball’s parabolic movement. Furthermore, students appeared to be stimulated to use more abstract reasoning, i.e., make more use of abstract entities, during the course of the process.
A further study is proposed to investigate how the development of concrete and abstract levels of mechanistic reasoning using stop-motion animations occurs. Furthermore, we want to see how the use of stop-motion animation works in an actual classroom. For these challenging projects, we have room for one or more research students.
Hoban, G., & Nielsen, W. (2010). The 5 Rs: a new teaching approach to encourage slowmations (studentgenerated animations) of science concepts. Teaching Science, 3(3), 33–38.
Russ, R. S., Scherr, R. E., Hammer, D., & Mikeska, J. (2008). Recognizing mechanistic reasoning in student scientific inquiry: A framework for discourse analysis developed from philosophy of science. Science Education, 92(3), 499–525. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20264