College of Science

Physics/Astronomy Education Research

Physics education research students

Physics Education Research (PER) and Astronomy Education Research (AER) faculty at Cal Poly Pomona combine the fundamental “knowledge about learning” and the “discipline specific knowledge of physics” to investigate ways of making the teaching and learning of physics more effective. PER and AER faculty conduct research, curriculum development, and instruction to improve student conceptual understanding in physics and physical science from elementary through college. Our faculty study questions of how students learn in both lower-division and upper-division classes in Physics and Astronomy, and how to develop, implement, and test the effectiveness of pedagogical learning strategies and technology designed to maximize student learning.

About the Faculty

Associate Professor Homeyra Sadaghiani has a broad range of research interests including:

  • Studying student difficulties in upper level quantum physics in two paradigms: Spin First vs. position first
  • Development and validation study of research-based assessments in upper-level quantum mechanics 
  • Measurement of scientific reasoning ability and conceptual understanding of physics content.
  • Effectiveness of different range of scientific inquiry approaches in preparation of prospective and practicing k-12 teachers.
  • Conceptual and mathematical barriers to students learning quantum mechanics.
  • Design and implementation of web-based instructional technologies and study of Hybrid-online and flipped classroom formats.
  • Effectiveness of different curricula, course transformations, and pedagogical strategies.

Her recent work involves comparing two different approaches in teaching quantum mechanics: “wave-function” (starting with continuous basis) vs. “spin first” (starting with discrete basis).  She is also working on the development, validation, and statistical reliability tests for a new multiple-choice Quantum Mechanics Assessment Tool, which measures student learning of basic quantum topics.  Her experimental techniques and analyses include student interviews, diagnostic tests, attitude and motivation surveys, exam question and video analysis.

Professor Alexander Rudolph conducts both AER and PER. His AERAER-1 work has focused on learning in large, general-education (GE) astronomy classes, known collectively as Astro 101. He was part of a team led by Dr. Ed Prather of the Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) at the University of Arizona that conducted a national study of Astro 101 classes including over 4000 students in 69 classrooms at 31 universities. He has also studied the role of textbooks in the Astro 101 classroom. 

Dr. Rudolph's PER research has focused on the introduction of interactive learning strategies into the French university physics classroom. While on sabbatical in Spring 2012, he led a study of student learning in two large (many hundreds) enrollment introductory physics classes, second semester mechanics and introductory electromagnetism (E&M) at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) in Paris, France. Dr. Rudolph also conducts research in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and is the Director of the CAMPARE research program for undergraduates.

Assistant Professor Qing Ryan has the following research interests:

  • Development of web-based computer coaches to improve students' physics problem-solving skills, at both the high school and college level.
  • Studying student difficulties in upper-level physics courses.
  • Understanding student difficulties of using mathematics in junior level E&M problem-solving.
  • Development of research-based assessments in junior level E&M.
  • Effectiveness of different range of scientific inquiry approaches in preparation of prospective and practicing k-12 teachers.

Her recent work involves studying student difficulties of using complex exponential math in junior level electrodynamics.  She is also working on the development, validation, and statistical reliability tests for a new multiple-choice Electrodynamics Assessment Tool.  Another project she is working on is the development of web-based computer coaches for high school physics.  

Selected Publications

Homeyra R. Sadaghiani and James Munteanu, "Spin First instructional approach to teaching quantum mechanics in sophomore level modern physics courses.” (2015) Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings, AIP Press 2015, 287-290, Maryland. 10.1119/perc.2015.pr.067

Homeyra R. Sadaghiani and Steven J. Pollock , "Quantum mechanics concept assessment: Development and validation study,” (2015) Phys. Rev. Special Topics: Physics Education Research 11, 010110, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.11.010110

Q. X. Ryan, S. Pollock, and B.Wilcox. “Student difficulties with boundary conditions” (2015). Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings, AIP Press 2015, 283-286. http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/perc.2015.pr.066

Q. X. Ryan, E. Frodermann, K. Heller, L.Hsu, and A.Mason. “Computer problem-solving coaches for introductory physics I: Design and usability studies”, Physics Review Special Topics. http://journals.aps.org/prper/accepted

Bethany R Wilcox, Marcos D Caballero, Charles Baily, Homeyra Sadaghiani, Stephanie V Chasteen, Qing X Ryan, Steven J Pollock"Development and uses of upper-division conceptual assessment” Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education ,  Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 11, 020115 (2015)

Q. X. Ryan, C.Astofil, C. Baily and S. Pollock. “Validation of a Conceptual Assessment Tool in E&M II”. Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings, AIP Press 2014, 231-234. http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/perc.2014.pr.054

A.L. Rudolph, B. Lamine, M. Joyce, H. Vignolles, and D. Consiglio, Introduction of interactive learning into French university physics classroom (2014) Phys. Rev. Special Topics: Physics Education Research, 10, 010103, DOI:10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.10.010103

H. Sadaghiani, Miller, and Pollock, “Constructing a Multiple-Choice Assessment For Upper-Division Quantum Physics From An Open-Ended Tool,” (2013) Physics Education Research Conference,  American Institute of Physics Conf. Proc., Portland, OR

Rudolph, A.L., Do You Always Need a Textbook to Teach Astro 101? (2013) Astronomy Education Review, 12 (1), 010112, DOI:10.3847/AER2012036

Q. Ryan, E. Frodermann, K. Heller, L.Hsu, and B.Aryal. “Designing a Useful Problem Solving Coach: Usage and Usability Studies”. Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings, AIP Press 2013. p. 309-312. http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/perc.2013.pr.065

H. Sadaghiani, “Controlled Study on the Effectiveness of Multimedia Learning Modules for Teaching Mechanics.” (2012) Phys. Rev. Special Topics: Physics Education Research 8, 010103 

Schlingman, W.M., Prather, E.E., Wallace, C.S., Rudolph, A.L., & Brissenden, G., A Classical Test Theory Analysis of the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory National Study Data Set. (2012) Astronomy Education Review, 11, 1, DOI:10.3847/AER2012010

Lindsey, Hsu, Sadaghiani, Taylor, and Cummings, “Positive Attitudinal Shifts with the Physics by Inquiry Curriculum Across Multiple Implementations” (2012) Phys. Rev. Special Topics: Physics Education Research 8, 010102 

H. Sadaghiani and Aguilera, “Mathematical vs. Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics: Where do we draw the line?“ (2012) Physics Education Research Conference, American Institute of Physics Conf. Proc., 1513, 358-361, Philadelphia 

Q, Xu, K. Heller, L.Hsu, and B.Aryal. “Authentic assessment of students’ problem solving”. Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings, AIP Press 2012. 1513: p. 434-437. DOI:10.1063/1.4789745

Prather, E. , Rudolph, A., & Brissenden, G., Using Research to Bring Interactive Learning into General Education Mega-Courses. (2011) Peer Review, 13, 3

H. Sadaghiani, “Using Multimedia Learning Modules in a Hybrid-online Course in Electricity and Magnetism.” (2011) Phys. Rev. Special Topics: Physics Education Research, 7, 010102 

H. Sadaghiani, “Online Prelectures: An Alternative to Textbook reading Assignments,” (2011) The Physics Teacher, Vol. 50

Rudolph, A.L., Prather, E.E. , Brissenden, G., Consiglio, D. & Gonzaga, V., A National Study Assessing the Teaching and Learning of Introductory Astronomy. Part II. The Connection between Student Demographics and Learning. (2010) Astronomy Education Review, 9, 1, DOI:10.3847/AER0009068

Prather, E.E. , Rudolph, A.L., & Brissenden, G., Teaching and Learning Astronomy in the 21st Century. (2009) Physics Today, 62 (10), 41, DOI:10.1063/1.3248478

Prather, E.E. , Rudolph, A.L., Brissenden, G., & Schlingman, W.M., A National Study Assessing the Teaching and Learning of Introductory Astronomy. Part I. The Effect of Interactive Instruction. (2009) Am. J. Phys., 77 (4), 320, DOI:10.1119/1.3065023

H. Sadaghiani and Costley, “The Effect of an Inquiry-Based Early Field Experience on Pre-Service Teachers’ Content Knowledge and Attitudes Towards Teaching.” (2009) Physics Education Research Conference, AIP Conf. Proc. 1179, 256, DOI:10.1063/1.325579 

H. Sadaghiani, “Physics By Inquiry: Addressing Student Learning and Attitude,” (2008) Physics Education Research Conference, AIP Conf. Proc. 1064, 191, DOI:10.1063/1.3021251

Bao, Stonebraker, and Sadaghiani, “A Flexible Homework Method.” (2008) American Journal of Physics, 76, 878