The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington: Dr. Lillian C. McDermott

The Physics Education Group, under the direction of Dr. Lillian C. McDermott, Professor of Physics, conducts a coordinated program of research, curriculum development, and instruction to improve student learning in physics. For more than 30 years, the Physics Education Group has been deeply involved in the preparation of prospective and practicing teachers to teach physics and physical science by inquiry. In undergraduate physics, the Group has been engaged in a major effort to improve the effectiveness of instruction at the introductory level and in more advanced courses. These projects provide a context in which the Group works toward promoting the professional development of teaching assistants and new faculty.

One of the projects of the Physics Education Group, Physics by Inquiry, is a self-contained curriculum primarily designed for the preparation of elementary, middle, and high school teachers but also suitable fo liberal arts students and for students who aspire to science-related careers, but who are underprepared in science & mathematics. The curriculum consists of a set of laboratory-based modules, all of which require active participation by the learner.

Another project, Tutorials in Introductory Physics, is being developed to supplement the lectures and textbooks through which physics is traditionally taught. The tutorials are suitable for both calculus-based and algebra-based courses in which there is an opportunity for students to work together in small groups.

In addition to publication of the two curricula, results are disseminated through talks presented at national meetings and through papers published in refereed journals, magazines, and conference proceedings. The work of the Group, which is support by the National Science Foundation, has contributed significantly to the formal recognition of physics education research as an important field for scholarly inquiry in physics departments.