Academic Writing - Physics

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A Critical and Historical Review of Various Experimental Methods for Determining the Distance to the Heliospheric Termination Shock.

Abstract

The solar wind, which consists of ionized atoms, streams continuously from the solar corona radially outward, carrying with it the solar magnetic flux through interplanetary space called the heliosphere. The solar wind is initially supersonic in the interplanetary medium, with a velocity between 350-450 km/s. When the solar wind velocity falls below approximately 200 km/s it becomes subsonic in the interplanetary medium. During the transition from the supersonic to subsonic regime the solar magnetic fields become compressed with the formation of a shock. This shock, called the solar wind termination shock, will accelerate charged particles. In this thesis I will compare and contrast different methods of analyzing measurements made in the heliosphere by instruments aboard various spacecraft in the last fifty years. Space-borne measurements not only suggest that the termination shock does in fact exist, but also allow one to calculate an approximate distance to this structure. One such method of calculating the distance to the termination shock entails the measurement of radio waves generated by particle acceleration at the shock. The other methods are primarily concerned with particle distributions in the heliosphere, specifically anomalous particles, which are singly charged ions accelerated in local interplanetary space. Finally, I will suggest possible improvements and new measurements that may be made in the future, including the direct measurement of the structure itself by the Voyager spacecraft.

Academic Writing - Education

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Pedagogical Effects on High-Stakes Summative Exams

Abstract

In developing nations, such as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), the value of English-language, high-stakes summative exam scores increases as the exams permit overseas opportunities to enhance the individual’s educational choices and provide the opportunity to build capacity in the nation when the students return. Often, immersive-English, teacher-centered, rote-learning pedagogy and teaching to the exam are traditional and favored in developing countries to achieve summative exam mastery as they require less training for instructors and focus purely on success with the examinations. According to evidence-based research, more active, multilingual, learner-centered pedagogy practiced in authentic, collaborative, experiential learning activities such as project-based learning (PjBL) and problem-based learning (PBL) frameworks can potentially maximize student agency, self-efficacy, motivation, critical thinking skills, and metacognitive skills conducive to life-long learning (Bransford et al., 2000; Holt et al., 2015; Baeten et al., 2010). This research analyzes the pedagogical effects of multilingual learner-centered activities vs. monolingual teacher-centered practice, on IGCSE and AS-Level summative Cambridge International Assessment examination outcomes, in varying degrees of learner-centered physics courses, compared to more exam-focused biology, chemistry, and mathematics courses. Can active learning enhance holistic learning outcomes without negatively impacting high-stakes exams? This initial research suggests the affirmative. Quantitative analyses of high-stakes exam scores of multiple cohorts over five years and qualitative studies in the form of student surveys investigating a cohort’s learner-centered conceptualizations and experiences provide support for learner-centered pedagogy in an exam-focused milieu.


Keywords: Cambridge International, active learning, high-stakes summative exams

Fostering Innovation

Introduction

One of the fantastic things about physics as a subject is that in trying to understand the nature of the physical universe, one is really just developing completely generalizable capabilities to solve problems, the content of physics is not the important part, it is the process of exploring and discovering the content. I made a career in solving problems around the globe that had little directly to do with physics, but my physics training was essential in developing this capability. Coming up with a new solution is innovation. Utilizing the innovations of others, though, is just as important, and often, this existing ‘best practice’ can be applied in new ways. My goal as physics teacher is to utilize the content of the curriculum as a context and environment, to facilitate the development of my students’ affective and cognitive capabilities, effectively providing learners with the tools, confidence, self-efficacy, motivation, and ultimately agency to flexibly innovate for their own purposes, and in any milieu; I have a goal for every student becoming an innovative leader capable of, and motivated to, improving the planet with matching high-expectations complimenting their capability.

Diversity Requires Implicit and Explicit Adaptations for Learning

Abstract

It is important to include creative and personal forms of expression and diversity more explicitly into any curriculum that is inclusive and differentiates for all learners. This paper describes ways to support creative and personal forms of expression and diversity in schools and classrooms via explicit curricular and pedagogical approaches. It begins with an outline of a strategy aimed at exploring narratives and ideologies of teachers and then applying that knowledge to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) learners, including how they adapt to the mix of linguistic and sociocultural factors in their environment and defining best practice in scaffolding CLD students. It is also important to provide recommendations on implicit dimensions of any curriculum to guide teachers in how they should interact with and reflect on their learners’ actions, contexts, and attributes; guidance for instructor self-assessment during their practice is critical for maximizing success with any endeavor such as this.  A pedagogical perspective influences how one facilitates a democratic environment. The author suggests that learner-centered environments foster democratic environments. Environments where instructors and students are metacognitive and reflective, where they have a sense of critical consciousness, will maximize the desired outcomes of inclusiveness, collaboration, and agency required for a democracy. After outlining the strategy, the author provides detailed pedagogical and curricular components of this strategy and their impact on learning. The author also proposes a continuous revision of the strategy based on formative and summative feedback.

Keywords: CLD, Best Practice, Inclusion, Diversity, Differentiation, Dialogue

Motivating Students by Facilitating and Modeling Agency

Introduction

Agency lies at the center of creativity, and is synonymous with motivation, but is not simply freedom; agency requires the skills to do something with freedom, to take action creatively with an interesting or useful outcome, to spiral towards creation that one can be proud of, and that attracts you to it. Agency is a new framework to see the world in ways that one did not see it before. A useful framework. A framework that one wants to share. Agency is the ability to construct a new context, to share it, so it overlaps with the context of others. Bauböck (2006) suggests that the earliest conceptions of democracy and citizenship require the agency of the participants, both the freedom to choose and the capability to choose responsibly.

To Learn is to be Vulnerable

Abstract

This paper suggests that educators must embrace vulnerability in themselves and foster it in others if they are going to contribute to inclusive learning environments and maximize student outcomes. Embracing vulnerability entails redefining it as a strength, recognizing that life-long learning requires one to accept a certain amount of uncertainty in one’s current perceptions, and therefore being more open to investigating and incorporating the perceptions of others with one’s own.


Keywords: vulnerability, education, inclusivity, multiculturalism, diversity

Inquiring into Language and Culture

Introduction

According to Gay and Kirkland (2003), it is important that education, of teachers and students, seeks to “develop critical cultural consciousness and self-reflection” of which there is an expectation that it can be modeled in the classroom to counteract the potential misunderstandings in diverse environments (p. 181). There are three key strategies for developing intercultural understanding and tolerance in the classroom. First, clearly demonstrating that one respects and has their students’ best interests in mind and explicitly values their cultural differences. Second, exercising and fostering metacognition and critical thinking. Third, humor, which is the sign of a laid back and fun environment that sets a tone for comradery and inquiry over a retreat.

A Toolbelt for High Expectations: Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning as Interactive Inquiry-Based Pedagogy

Introduction

There is a call from many 21st century educational stakeholders for an interactive, transdisciplinary pedagogy to prepare students for a flexible, collaborative, life-long learning outcome deemed critical for the fast-paced, diverse, globalized workplace (Bybee, 2009; Reimers, 2009). Some even possess grander ideals for transforming the status quo into a cooperative, reflective, critically-minded world signified by a collective post-capitalist growth-mindset devoid of “docile, compliant workers” (The New London Group, 1996, p. 67). The required capabilities to achieve either outcome, a future civil or social engineer, demand creativity, critical thinking, metacognition, communication, adaptability, self-development skills, and systems thinking for “non-routine” problem-solving (Bybee, 2009, p. 4). Yet, existing structures and institutions and some stakeholders preferring different outcomes, provide obstacles to either of these goals (Mills, & Treagust, 2003; The New London Group, 1996). According to evidence-based research for maximizing educational outcomes leveraging cognitive, psychological, sociological, neurological, and systems design models, interactive inquiry-based learning (IBL) pedagogies such as Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Project-based Learning (PjBL) all provide avenues for improving education over the traditional classroom techniques (Brown & Green, 2016; Bybee, 2009; Dornan, Conn, Monaghan, Kearney, Gillespie, & Bennett, 2019; Kimberlin Education, 2019; Newman, 2005; Larmer, 2015; Oberg, 2010; Schwartz, 2012).

A STEAM Lesson: Doughy Circuits

Abstract

This lesson seeks to engage a wide range of students with an inquiry into conductivity and conduction within circuits by utilizing conductive and non-conductive dough, light-emitting diodes (LED), resistors, and a power source so students can create dynamic sculptures using light, color, and electricity melding physics concepts with the six elements of art, and design engineering: line, shape, forms, space, color, texture and engineering efficiency (J Paul Getty Trust,  2011) (see Fig. 1-8). As mentioned in the Lesson Extension portion of this paper, more time, and increased student and instructor capabilities can incorporate chemistry, digital technology, and various levels of sophisticated mathematical circuit analyses.

Flipping Your Classroom

Introduction

Educators must always be on the lookout for ways to innovate, pivot their teaching methods, and collect more tools in their toolbelt to optimize potential learning outcomes, which consequently contributes to one’s personal and professional development.