NSF Proposal Summary DUE-1836603
1/19–12/20; $298,984

David Roundy, Tevian Dray, Elizabeth Gire, & Corinne A. Manogue,


In 1996, the Paradigms in Physics Project at Oregon State University reformed the entire upper-division curriculum for physics majors. This reform involved both a rearrangement of content to better reflect the way professional physicists think about the field and also the infusion of a number of evidence-based interactive pedagogies that are known to engage students more effectively. The resulting curriculum has become a local and national model for curricular reform and includes a variety of active-engagement teaching strategies. The holistic approach of the Paradigms Project represents an essential complement to curriculum development projects that focus on a single course or subdiscipline of physics and to education research that focuses on a single concept at a time.

Key to the ongoing success of the Paradigms program has been a vibrant learning community of physics faculty that constantly adapts both the curriculum and the groups' processes and methods as the physics education research community progresses. The project team includes curriculum developers, education researchers, textbook authors, online textbook designers, recent adopters of curriculum materials from previous projects, and web development experts.

Intellectual Merit

Strand 1: Improved Online Dissemination of Curricular Materials: Using a rigorous user-centered design process this project will redesign the Paradigms Project's online curriculum dissemination website on the outside to make it more intuitive for users to find needed information. Employing a relational database for the structure underneath will allow for adding new layers of information about sequences of activities and courses.

Strand 2: Modular Online Mathematical Methods Text: Employing state-of-the-art software, this project will develop an open source, modular, online mathematical methods book for use in a just-in-time fashion in upper-division courses. Using PreTeXt and Sage will allow the inclusion of multiple types of collapsible text alongside embedded computer algebra coding and high-quality, interactive graphics.

Broader Impact

The gold standard for web dissemination of curricular materials is changing rapidly. For example, the National Science Digital Library has in many ways been superceded by modern search engines. The project activities represent second generation dissemination techniques.

Strand 1 will create a more effective website that will be used by faculty teaching upper-division physics courses across the nation. Many curriculum development groups are struggling to create a website that can be used effectively. The complex structure of our long-term project is a further challenge. One of the two major aggregators, PhysPort, simply links to our site. Making our site more usable for those wishing to adopt various aspects of the Paradigms materials will also make our site a model for how other curriculum development projects might achieve the same goals.

The textbook in Strand 2 will document the content, language, and interactive nature of Paradigms courses as a living curriculum, whose continuous further development is driven by what happens in the classroom, thus providing a resource not only to our own students, but also to our colleagues in mathematics, physics, and science education, both at OSU and at other institutions. Furthermore, our deliberate choice to present mathematical concepts in physics language provides both mathematics and physics instructors with a window into the culture of the other discipline. Not only does it help students to see familiar concepts in linear algebra expressed in the bra/ket language of quantum mechanics, but it is equally enlightening for mathematics instructors to be exposed to this usage.

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