University of Maryland Physics Education Research Group


UMD PERG PhD Dissertations:
Alice Olmstead

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An assessment of professional development for astronomy and physics faculty: Expanding our vision of how to support faculty's learning about teaching

Alice Olmstead, Doctor of Philosophy, 2016

Dissertation directed by: Prof. Derek Richardson, Dept. of Atronomy, and Dr. Chandra Turpen, Dept. of Physics


In this thesis, we will explore approaches to faculty instructional change in astronomy and physics. We primarily focus on professional development (PD) workshops, which are a central mechanism used within our community to help faculty improve their teaching. Although workshops serve a critical role for promoting more equitable instruction, we rarely assess them through careful consideration of how they engage faculty. To encourage a shift towards more re ective, researchinformed PD, we developed the Real-Time Professional Development Observation Tool (R-PDOT), to document the form and focus of faculty's engagement during workshops. We then analyze video-recordings of faculty's interactions during the Physics and Astronomy New Faculty Workshop, focusing on instances where faculty might engage in pedagogical sense-making. Finally, we consider insights gained from our own local, team-based e ort to improve a course sequence for astro

Thesis in PDF format.

Table of Contents

  1. Broad motivation
  2. Empirical, theoretical, and analytical frameworks
  3. Data collection
  4. Assessing the interactivity and prescriptiveness of faculty professional development workshops:
    The Real-Time Professional Development Observation Tool (R-PDOT)
  5. Case studies: linking workshop design to faculty's engagement
  6. The transformation of an introductory astronomy course sequence for majors: a local, team-based approach to instructional change
  7. Conclusions
  8. Appendices

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