Developing Physics Competences - nfqnetwork.ie

Developing Physics Competences - nfqnetwork.ie

Supporting the Design of Discipline-Specific Learning Outcomes: Experiences of the Tuning Group for Physics Gareth Jones Imperial College London OUTLINE The Tuning Project What, Why, Who? Competences and Learning Outcomes Hierarchy of Learning Outcomes and link to Level and Standards Surveys and Results Degree Programme (Re)Design Main Requirements A fresh start or improve what exists Incorporating competences and content requirements Specific Examples

IOP Accreditation requirements for Physics degrees Example of Module and Thematic Learning Outcomes What is the Tuning Project? The universities response to the Bologna Process: Most work done by separate but coordinated teams of discipline experts each with one member from each EU country To find ways to implement a three-cycle degree structure To develop learning outcomes and competences for each cycle (reference points) on basis of consensus after much discussion To survey views of students, graduates, academics and employers on importance of both generic and subject specific competences To survey and compare programme content and structure Development of ECTS as a credit accumulation system

Best Practice in teaching & learning and quality enhancement Tuning Coordinators/Leaders: Julia Gonzalez & Robert Wagenaar Tuning Physics Group Leader: Lupo Dona dalle Rose From the Tuning Final Report Two of the key driving ideas of the Tuning Project One of the main objectives of the Bologna process is to make study programmes and periods of learning more comparable and compatible. This objective is strongly promoted by making use of the concept of levels, learning outcomes, competences and ECTS credits. The Tuning emphasis on competences and learning outcomes is intrinsic to the paradigm shift from a professor-centred to a student-centred approach which is seen as a key way of improving the effectiveness of European HE.

Competences Ability to do something. Competences range from: specific and small, e.g. competence to use an oscilloscope, to general and large, e.g. competence to solve problems Acquired by students and assessed either in a specific part of a course or throughout programme in an integrative, holistic way Learning Outcomes often expressed in terms of competences (but not all) Generic Competences, e.g. general cognitive abilities, interpersonal skills Subject Specific Competences Competences required and/or valued by profession/discipline Different universities may emphasise particular competences and deemphasise others Profile of degree Examples of Generic Competences from Tuning

Ability to apply knowledge in practical situations Capacity for analysis and synthesis Capacity to learn Creativity Adaptability Critical and self-critical abilities Concern for quality To act in accordance with a basic knowledge of the profession Tuning Survey 2008 Employers Response: Most important generic competences Tuning Survey 2008 - General Competences of Graduates - Employers' Response 4 3.5 3 Score 2.5 Importance 2

Achievement 1.5 1 0.5 0 Apply Knowledge Identify, Pose and in Practice Resolve Problems Determination & Perserverence Oral & Written Communication Competence Teamwork Make Reasoned Decisions

Stay up-to-date with Learning Physics Specific Competences/Learning Outcomes Able to enter new fields through independent study Familiar with the work of genius, i.e. with the variety and delight of physical discoveries and theories, thus developing awareness of the highest standards Have a good understanding of the most important physical theories including a deep knowledge of the foundations of modern physics Able to evaluate orders of magnitude in situations which are physically different but show analogies Able to understand and master the most commonly used mathematical and numerical methods Able to perform calculations, including the use of numerical methods and

computing, to solve problems Able to construct mathematical models of a process/situation by identifying the essentials of a process/situation and making justified approximations Have a good knowledge of at least one frontier physics specialty Physics Specific Competences/Learning Outcomes (Practical/Experimental/Research) Able to perform experiments independently, as well as to describe, analyze and critically evaluate experimental data and to be familiar with the most important experimental methods Understanding of the nature and methods of physics research and how it can be applied in other fields e.g. engineering Familiar with the culture of physics research, including the relation between experiment and theory and ability to span many areas

Able to find physical and technical information relevant to research work and technical project development using literature search methods Able to work with a high degree of autonomy, accepting responsibility in planning and managing projects Able to carry out professional activities in the area of applied technologies and industry Physics Specific Competences (Human Dimension) Able to present ones own results (research or literature search) to professional and lay audiences orally and in written form using appropriate language Able to work in interdisciplinary teams

Prepared to compete for school teaching positions in physics To show a personal sense of responsibility, e.g. meeting deadlines, and to show professional flexibility To behave with professional integrity and an awareness of the ethical aspects of physics research and its impact on society Tuning Survey on Competences 2008 Opinions on the most important Physics Specific Competences Employers Graduates Students Academics

Ability to enter new fields Problem Solving Literature Search Ability to enter new fields Deep Knowledge & Understanding Mathematical Skills Mathematical Skills Modelling Skills Ability to enter new fields Experimental Skills Estimation Skills Estimation Skills Problem Solving

Deep Knowledge & Understanding Ability to enter new fields Foreign Language Skills Deep Knowledge & Understanding Specific Communication Skills Modelling Skills Experimental Skills Experimental Skills Problem Solving Managing Skills Estimation Skills Tuning Survey of Competences 2008 - Physics

3.8 3.6 3.4 Importance Score 3.2 Employers 3 Graduates Students 2.8 Academics 2.6 2.4 2.2 2 Competence Learning Outcomes: What and Why?

Statements of what students should know, understand or be able to do as a result of following a course Knowledge and understanding Problem solving Skills: experimental, mathematical, design, Ability at communication, teamwork etc. Use in defining levels: 1st and 2nd cycle level descriptors Part of Bologna Process and Qualification Frameworks Use in Programme Design & QA methodology What education is all about Must be assessed Hierarchy of Learning Outcomes Module Level Learning Outcomes

Specified by Module Teacher and Programme Director Should/must be assessed mark or grade Desired and threshold Learning Outcomes criteria Need to be specific but not too detailed Thematic Learning Outcomes, e.g. Quantum Mechanics Refer mainly to overall or final abilities. Forest not the trees Year Learning Outcomes: useful for progression criteria Programme Learning Outcomes, e.g. BSc (Hons) in Physics General and summative statements Holistic Dublin Descriptor type statements but applied to discipline Refer to Academic Level Academic Level and Learning Outcomes Intended Learning Outcomes give a good indication of competence for performing particular tasks, but: Need to be fairly specific, e.g. able to use time dependent perturbation theory to solve problems in atomic and nuclear physics. But: What kind of problems? How difficult? Need to refer to how assessed, e.g. exam questions.

Learning Outcome statements for programmes are not enough to compare standards. How do you add up Learning Outcomes? Need to specify content/volume. Are Learning Outcomes Helpful? Can be very helpful for programme design Focus mind on What are the students getting out of it? Can improve teaching and the output competences of graduates How to assess whether or not they are achieved? Exams OK for academic problem solving but not so good for realistic problem solving Difficulty of questions is crucial for standards but is hard to control and interpret Mark Scale: Raw data for testing hypothesis Has this LO been achieved? but what is threshold mark? Practical competences easier to test Traditional Programme Design (Professor) i (Course) i I will teach them what I know Programme = (Course) i Leads to content and professor dominated curriculum

Danger of Content overload and excessive derivations Obscurity of purpose: Why are we doing this? Little increase in competence Advantages (if have good professors!): Produces deep understanding for best students Good for producing future professors!!! The Programme Design Problem An existing module synopsis can be basis for a list of Learning Outcomes for that module The general characteristics of a degree programme can be defined by Qualifications Framework statements But what goes in the middle?

Subject specific qualification and level descriptors (Benchmark) Thematic Learning Outcomes Structuring of content to ensure linkage and progression Development of teaching, learning and assessment methods to enable learning outcomes to be achieved and assessed holistically Construction of a matrix of competences vs. modules is very helpful Helps to ensure competences appear explicitly in the design Matrix of Competence vs. Content Knowledge & Understand Mechanics & Relativity 50% Maths 1 20%

1st Yr Lab 10% Quantum Physics 60% Professional Skills Apprec. work of Genius Problem Maths Solving Skills 10% 30% 30%

10% 50% 10% 20% 15% 20% Experimental Communication Skills Skills 50% 30% 5% 10% 30% Steps in Physics BSc Programme Design

INPUTS (a) IOP Accreditation Requirements and QAA Benchmark statement (b) National Framework of Qualifications (NQAI) (c) Desired Qualification Profile (e.g. Applied, Pure,) (d) Desired/expected student intake and potential employers (e) Resources and existing degree programme modules (f) Tuning results on Competences, Learning Outcomes, Content, PROCESS

Internal Discussion: where we are where we want to be, SWOT Construct Matrix of Competences vs. Modules, using (a), (b), (f) Check (c), (d), (e) Develop Learning Outcomes for whole programme, themes and modules Check academic level Develop Teaching and Learning Methods and Assessments ITERATE! Will it work? Does it meet requirements? Is it realistic? Seek wide support and administrative approval Use of Learning Outcomes in Practice (Reverse Engineering) Start from where we are now

LOs for each module: Improve them, check how assessed Examine content: remove redundancies, add missing items Check accreditation, benchmark, Tuning competences are met Construct matrix of competences vs. modules Iterate! It is likely there are gaps or deficiencies Construct more generalised LOs for themes, years, programme Ensure logical progression, e.g. C depends on A and B Check requirements of NQAI. Check academic level. Iterate, again! Pay particular attention to assessment and recent student results (marks, drop-out rates, employment, ) Present new programme for approval Example of Approaches to Teaching & Learning Tuning Physics Group Modelling (second cycle) Modelling in a narrow sense means finding a simplified mathematical description of a complex phenomenon. It often means also applying tools of theoretical physics to non-physics situations. There is no course unit named Modelling. Students learn the modelling

description of nature throughout their whole degree-course. Possible examples are: the modelling neglect of friction in the description of free fall, the abundant use of harmonic oscillator for phenomena in the neighbourhood of stable equilibria, the shell model average field for nucleons in nuclei, the modelling of two-nucleon and three-nucleon forces, and so on. The whole teaching offer is then important: in lectures, exercise classes, in lab classes, in student seminars and during research training students learn about how theories were developed, how to select and then apply theoretical tools (e.g. models) to a particular physical problem and how to model the building blocks of a theory, by adapting these latter to the experimental data description. Example of Approaches to Teaching & Learning Tuning Physics Group Problem solving skills (first cycle) Active Learning: in all classes (theory, lab or problem solving) Several questions are posed to the theory class and a certain amount of time is allowed for discussion in the same class.

Several question-problems are set to the class and assigned to groups of students. They should find an answer (either exact or approximate) in a certain amount of time. They are also requested to explain their reasoning to other students (Did they divide the problem in simpler problems? did they use analogies with problems, for which they already knew the answer? why are they confident about their own answer?) In the exercise classes the students are requested to correct and comment other students ways of solving the exercises. In the lab classes students are frequently asked to solve experimentally or propose ways for solving other more complex problems that may be considered extensions of the material proposed in the class. (ex: after studying an LC circuit they are encouraged to solve the problem of coupled LC circuits and think about the problem of impedance adaptation in a transmission line). IOP Accreditation Requirements The degree programme should foster intellectual curiosity in the minds of students Graduates should have acquired A secure knowledge of an agreed core of physics + a few extra frontier topics Competences represented by graduate skills base The degree programme must incorporate project work BSc level project work may be a dissertation MSc/MSci level project work must involve research skills

The degree programme must be consistent with QAA Benchmark IOP Graduate Skills Base (Part of Programme Learning Outcomes) Physics Skills: Physics students should be able to Tackle problems in physics Use mathematics to describe the physical world Plan, execute, analyse and report experiments Compare results critically with predictions from theory Transferable Skills: A Physics degree should enhance Problem solving skills (well defined and open-ended)

Investigative skills Communication skills Analytical skills IT skills Personal skills (group work, use of initiative, meet deadlines) Graduates should have a secure knowledge of the IOP Core of Physics Mathematics for Physicists Mechanics and Relativity Quantum Physics including atomic, nuclear and particle physics Condensed Matter Physics Oscillations and Waves Electromagnetism Optics Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics

Example of Module and Thematic LOs 1st Year Mechanics Module LOs (selection) Understand the concept of conservative force and its relation to the potential function (in 3 dimensions) Be able to solve single particle motion from a given potential function in two dimensions Be able to use angular momentum and energy conservation in central force problems Can be tested by answers to exam questions but how to interpret exam marks Not just Yes or No but partial Yes Index of cleverness or speed of working Thematic Learning Outcome for Mechanics Able to use Newtons Laws in a wide range of areas of physics Aware of the power of conservation laws Aware of more advanced methods of Lagrangians etc. Conclusions The traditional approach to programme design stresses content too much and does not pay sufficient attention to the change we are trying to produce in students in terms of their competences.

A Learning Outcomes approach requires a re-thinking of why, what and how we teach and of how we assess students achievements. It will require more effort initially from teachers but will probably enable reductions to be made in the amount of content taught. Students must be given more scope for activities like problem solving, team-work and communications but also must accept more responsibility for their own learning. The Learning Outcomes approach is firmly embedded in the Bologna Process. Tuning has shown how it can be used in a PanEuropean way

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