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How We Can Help: The Rutgers Story Suzanne White-Brahmia Eugenia Etkina APS/AAPT Joint NY State Section Meeting Spring 2004: Recruiting and Retaining Underrepresented.

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Presentation on theme: "How We Can Help: The Rutgers Story Suzanne White-Brahmia Eugenia Etkina APS/AAPT Joint NY State Section Meeting Spring 2004: Recruiting and Retaining Underrepresented."— Presentation transcript:

1 How We Can Help: The Rutgers Story Suzanne White-Brahmia Eugenia Etkina APS/AAPT Joint NY State Section Meeting Spring 2004: Recruiting and Retaining Underrepresented Populations

2 Partial List of Contributors George Horton Brian Holton Suzanne White-Brahmia Eugenia Etkina Baki Brahmia Alan Van Heuvelen Plethora of hard working teaching assistants who cared so much that they actually changed their students lives

3 Plugging the Pipeline Who is underrepresented? When they do come, why don’t they stay? What can we do?

4 Rutgers Initiative: Part of a Bigger Picture Kean Act of 1968 – created EOF in NJ in response to the rage of the Newark Riots EOF provides –“opportunities to those who might otherwise be unable to attend such institutions” –support that is entirely need-based ~1/3 of EOF students are African American or Latino(a)

5 EOF- Strengthening Our Success Strong links with EOF Directors in Engineering and in Health Sciences is essential to success of our program. Outside of class, EOF provides –summer program –tutorial assistance –reduced course load –extensive counseling services –knowledge/caring regarding life circumstances of students

6 Rutgers Gateway Program 1987 University offered 12 extra TA lines/$340k in new special funding for the entire university: “…in support of the institutional goal of increasing student retention, particularly among minority students, by concentrating on improving the competence and persistence of freshmen.”

7 Beginning of Gateway Physics Observations –Only 63% of incoming freshman engineering majors passed first year physics, 17% of whom received “D”s –Unsuccessful students disproportionately represented by females, African Americans and Latinos 1987 Gateway Prephysics course awarded $60k and 1.3 TA lines from university

8 Gateway Prephysics ’87-’89 One semester, taken before Analytical Physics Remedial mathematics, some physics, based on Prelude to Physics, C. Swartz (Wiley 1983) “prephysics” structure replaced after just two years because: –Required extra year to obtain degree –Stigma –One semester too short to prepare for Analytical Physics

9 What Puts Students At Risk of Failing Physics? Weak academic preparation –Many African American/Latino/female students do not take the most challenging math and physics in HS (many don’t get the opportunity) Low confidence level –Physics is perceived as difficult “Impostor” syndrome –“Everyone but me understands…” Lack of community –First level of help students use is their peers Unrealistic expectations –Hope to pass with little effort

10 Methods for Addressing At Risk Factors To Address…Recommended methods are… Low Confidence Impostor Syndrome Lack of Community Group work Continuous feedback Ample availability of staff Weak Academic preparation Emphasis on concepts and scientific reasoning Abstraction proceeded by hands-on experimentation

11 Essential Features of Extended Physics Group Work –teams of 2-3 –evaluated on both group/indiv understanding Course Coordinator provides: –integration of all aspects of learning cycle –continuity and cohesion amongst teaching staff –advising/emotional support to students Assessment –nontraditional exam format –in each class meeting –diverse Spiral Learning Structure –each lecture followed by a small group meeting with hands-on collaborative activities Increased contact hours each week –Extended courses meet ~twice as often as the regular counterpart

12 Extended Physics Program - Timeline 1989 – Extended Analytical Physics course created as an alternative to the Analytical Physics course for freshman engineers, difficulties included –developing appropriate curriculum –student needs were not well met by the frequent change-of-staff common in large universities 1992 – University staff line secured for Director of Extended Physics Program 1993 – Extended General Physics created 2000 – Extended sections in 2 nd year Analytical course created

13 Extended Courses Offered StudentsRegular CourseAlternate Path Engineering Majors Analytical Physics I Analytical Physics II Extended Analytical Physics I Analytical Physics II: Extended Recitations Pre-Med, Science, Computer Science majors General PhysicsExtended General Physics

14 Extended Analytical Physics Placement based on low math placement test scores (pre-calc) Some space available for students from regular course and sophomores ~60% students are in EOF program Higher percentage of female, Latino/African American students than regular course Curriculum based on Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE-Etkina, Van Heuvelen)

15 Students learn physics using strategies to construct their knowledge similar to those used by physicists. Strategies include: –Making observations and discovering patterns –Developing and testing models –Applying models Methods used by students: –construct and use multiple representations of physical processes –design investigations –constantly reflect on knowledge construction –solve multipart problems What is ISLE?

16 ISLE in Extended Analytical Physics Lecture Activities - Making Observations -Discovering Patterns -Developing Models Lecture Activities -Testing Model w/ Experiments and Problems -Application of Model Recitation Hands-On Activities for Chapter n -Developing Model -Testing Model Recitation HW due for Chapter n -Application Problems Increment n by 1

17 Group Projects: Oral Presentation Replaces one midterm exam Groups of 2-3 design one cycle on a topic of choice Cycle includes: –observational experiments, –mathematical model, –testing experiments, –and data analysis Assessment –30% arranging meetings with TAs, showing up to meetings prepared –10% rating of performance in group by the other group members –60% quality of work and presentation

18 Oral Presentations


20 Engineering Physics Options Extended Analytical Physics (EAP I) 3 credits per semester Analytical Physics (AP I) 2 credits per semester Extended Analytical Physics II (AP II) 3 credits per semester 1st Year Mechanics, Waves, and Thermodynamics 2nd Year Electromagnetism, Optics, Modern Physics



23 But… Extended students experienced a difficult transition to the traditional second year physics course. In response to a petition created by the EAP I students, Extended sections of AP II were created in 2000.

24 Comparison of Structure: Extended and Regular Sections of AP II

25 Course Grades for AP II Fall '99

26 Course Grades for AP II Fall 2000

27 Abandoners are... students who started attending classes, sometime during the term stopped attending class and did not take the final exam.

28 Completion of AP II by EAP I before vs after Creation of Extended Recitations 77 %complete 93 %complete

29 Abandoners AP II ’99 vs ’00 by Ethnicity and Gender

30 Final Exam Score Distribution for AP II 2000

31 Do We Help With Retention? Coordinators of both Extended courses were “2004 EOF Champions” –awarded by State of NJ Commission of Higher Education Equal Opportunity Fund Board of Directors, for “having developed new approaches that have had a significant impact on EOF students.”


33 What We Can Do On Individual Level (courses) –Model professional practices in a nurturing environment On Departmental Level –Evaluate student performance and look at subgroups of underrepresented students On an Institutional Level –Know who your EOF Directors are (or EOF- equivalent) and communicate with them

34 It is not how smart you are; but how you are smart. - Howard Gardner To reach students whose educational backgrounds vary significantly, offer a variety of meaningful learning and assessment opportunities as part of the course structure.

35 Publications About Extended Physics and ISLE B.L. Holton, and G.K. Horton, “The Rutgers Physics Learning Center: Reforming the physics course for first-year engineering and science students,” Phys. Teach. 34(3), (1996). E. Etkina, et. al., “Lessons learned: a case study of an integrated way of teaching introductory physics to at-risk students of Rutgers University.” Am. J. Phys. 67(9), (1999). S. Brahmia, and E. Etkina, “Turning students on to science,” Journal of College Science Teaching, 31(3), (2001). S. Brahmia, and E. Etkina, Emphasizing Social Aspects of Learning to Foster Success of Students At- Risk, Proceedings of the 2001 Physics Education Research Conference. Rochester, NY. Etkina, E. & Van Heuvelen, A. (2001). Investigative Science Learning Environment: Using the processes of science and cognitive strategies to learn physics. Proceedings of the 2001 Physics Education Research Conference. Rochester, NY, Submitted for publication to AJP: S. Brahmia et. al. Plugging the Leaky Pipeline: A Practical Approach to Promoting Success of At-Risk Students in a Large-Lecture Physics Course for Engineering Majors

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