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Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education - A Mentor's Thoughts on Dissemination
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David Sokoloff, Department of Physics, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

David Sokoloff at the University of  Oregon has successfully mentored six institutions in the effective implementation of Real Time Physics (RTP) and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (ILDs).  The emergence of computer technologies and new understandings of student learning difficulties derived from physics education research have guided the design of this active, computer-supported program, which improves student conceptual learning and attitudes in the laboratories and lectures of traditionally structured physics courses.  As a successful innovator and disseminator, David shares his thoughts below as a resource to those of you planning to create a dissemination program.

Selecting Adapting Sites

I looked for a variety in potential participants and adaptations, from short courses to workshops to institutes.   Because of the technological base to the curricula, it was important to choose adapting sites that already had the technology and some experience working with it.  I selected a cross-section of different types of institutions to examine the effectiveness of the curricula in a variety of settings and with a variety of different students.  The list of adapters below identifies the characteristics that each offered to the dissemination of the program.

  • Hunter College - an inner-city state university with large minority and female populations.  CORE integrated physics/chemistry/math class for pre-medical students was especially interesting.
  • Pacific University - a small private institution with small classes and a strong commitment to innovation.
  • Salt Lake Community College - a large community college in an urban setting.
  • California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo - a medium-sized state university known for its agriculture and engineering programs.
  • University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth - a small campus of a state university with a largely commuter population.
  • U.S. Naval Academy - a huge introductory physics class with a relatively homogenous population.

Different Roles for a Mentoring Institution

Each institution had its own special needs, sometimes changing from year to year.  I hosted adapting teams on my campus each year for training, observations and collaboration.  In addition, during my site visits to each campus, I found myself in a number of roles, including:

  • Seminar speaker
  • Workshop presenter
  • Politician - meeting with deans, division chairs and vice provosts
  • Software and hardware troubleshooter
  • Class scheduling consultant
  • Unobtrusive observer
  • Obtrusive observer
  • Teaching assistant trainer
  • Supportive listener
  • All-around troubleshooter
  • Cheerleader (and therapist)

What Made the Experience Easier Than Expected?

  • Significant learning gains demonstrated at most sites.
  • Despite significant adversity at several sites, participants' persistent enthusiasm about the curricula.
  • The team's enthusiastic and universal participation in meetings at the mentoring institution.
  • The willingness of administrators to make needed adjustments.
  • The universal adaptation of the active learning approach at several adapting sites.
  • The support of FIPSE throughout the project.

Rosemary Wolfe, editor, former FIPSE program officer


Last Modified: 09/14/2005