Lillian C. McDermott

Lillian C. McDermott
University of Washington Seattle | UW · Department of Physics

About

119
Publications
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8,330
Citations
Citations since 2017
21 Research Items
2170 Citations
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20172018201920202021202220230100200300

Publications

Publications (119)
Chapter
DESCRIPTION This chapter describes the early years of author Lillian Christie McDermott's formal research in physics education. By 1973, she had begun to write worksheets that guided K–12 teachers through a series of questions for use in workshops on physical science education for local school districts. In a pivotal innovation, she invited former...
Chapter
DESCRIPTION The concluding chapter summarizes three themes which weave through the book and are embodied in the ongoing commitments of the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington: the value of Physics Education Research as an empirical applied science; the goal of improving student learning from the introductory to the graduate leve...
Chapter
DESCRIPTION The formation of the Physics Education Group (PEG) at the University of Washington grew out of, and significantly contributed to, the development of Physics Education Research (PER) as a field. The first part of this chapter details a successful strategy to build internal and external networks of support for the PEG and PER, and describ...
Chapter
DESCRIPTION This chapter opens with a brief history of the early life and education of Lillian Christie McDermott, as narrated by the author. It describes some of the obstacles she faced as a married woman in physics, and how her adaptation to those constraints indirectly led her to the field of physics education research, beginning when she joined...
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DESCRIPTION The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington (UW) has found that research, curriculum development, and instruction are part of an iterative process that can proceed in either direction. The group was inspired by practical needs arising from experience in instruction and sought to put that experience together with formal r...
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DESCRIPTION The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has contributed nationally and internationally to the establishment of a supportive structure for Physics Education Research. This chapter describes key factors underpinning these contributions, including soliciting and receiving support from major national scientific instituti...
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DESCRIPTION Gaining approval for Physics Education Research as a legitimate topic area for a Ph.D. from the Department of Physics at the University of Washington opened the door to the work described in this chapter. As their faculty advisor, author Lillian Christie McDermott collaborated with her first three graduate students in research identifyi...
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DESCRIPTION In 1990, members of the Physics Education Group (PEG) at the University of Washington began to develop inquiry-oriented instructional materials for introductory calculus-based physics courses. Tutorials in Introductory Physics was the result. A supplementary curriculum, the Tutorials feature small, graduate teaching-assistant-led sectio...
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DESCRIPTION The preceding chapters address how the Physics Education Group (PEG) at the University of Washington (UW) has contributed to understanding and improving K–12 science teaching through generating research and developing and implementing the curriculum. However, the picture would be incomplete without hearing directly from the teachers who...
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DESCRIPTION The Physics Education Group (PEG) at the University of Washington has had a major impact on the practice and field of physics education through three key avenues: the research and teaching careers of its students, post-docs, and faculty; the publication of their research; and the widespread use of the research-based curricula developed...
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The topic of atomic spectra is part of university and secondary school curricula around the world. Relatively little research, however, has been done on the learning and teaching of this subject, despite the fact that it forms a foundation for advanced study in quantum mechanics, astronomy, and astrophysics. A systematic investigation into student...
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This is the second of two closely related articles (Paper I and Paper II) that together illustrate how research in physics education has helped guide the design of instruction that has proved effective in improving student understanding of atomic spectroscopy. Most of the more than 1000 students who participated in this four-year investigation were...
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This is the first of two closely related articles (Paper I and Paper II) that together illustrate how research in physics education has helped guide the design of instruction that has proved effective in improving student understanding of atomic spectroscopy. Most of the more than 1000 students who participated in this four-year investigation were...
Article
Preface: In thanking AAPT for the Melba Newell Phillips Medal, I want to emphasize that the accomplishments that have been recognized by this award have resulted from many contributions over many years by past and present members of the UW Physics Education Group. Support by the National Science Foundation has been critical. On a more personal leve...
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The research reported in this paper represents an in-depth examination of the finding from an earlier investigation that university students often do not develop a functional understanding of the concept of a complete circuit. Participants in this study included undergraduates in introductory and upper-division physics courses as well as graduate t...
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The ability of adult students to reason on the basis of the control of variables was the subject of an extended investigation. This paper describes the part of the study that focused on the reasoning required to decide whether or not a given variable influences the behavior of a system. The participants were undergraduates taking introductory Physi...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been conducting research on the learning and teaching of physics and developing research-based and research-validated curriculum since the mid 1970's. During all of this time, the group has been deeply involved in preparing K-12 teachers to teach physics and physical science by inquiry...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been developing research-based instructional materials on mechanical waves and physical optics.* As a part of this ongoing process, we continue to assess and refine existing tutorials. In particular, we are focusing on tutorials designed to help students apply boundary conditions to th...
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A unit on mechanics, based on Physics by Inquiry1 by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, has been tested in a high school classroom. Development of the instructional materials was guided by experience gained from the NSF Summer Institute and academic-year programs for inservice teachers offered by the group. Questions have...
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For the past several years, the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been engaged in an investigation of the learning and teaching of quantum mechanics. This study has been conducted primarily in the junior-level undergraduate quantum mechanics class at the University of Washington. It has focused on student understanding of...
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As a science coach in the Seattle School District, I am responsible for helping other elementary teachers teach science. For several years, I have been participating in a program that consists of intensive NSF Summer Institutes and an ongoing academic-year Continuation Course. Teachers in this program work through modules in Physics by Inquiry, a r...
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As part of an ongoing research and curriculum development effort, the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington is examining student understanding of introductory quantum mechanics. The investigation includes data from four different classes at two large research universities. Specific research questions will be used to illustrate som...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been developing and modifying research-based instructional materials on waves and physical optics.1 In particular, we continue to assess the persistence of certain student difficulties regarding wave behavior at the boundary between different media. New research questions have helped u...
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New insights into student understanding of complete circuits continue to emerge from an ongoing investigation conducted by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. Recent results suggest that student difficulties associated with the concept of a complete circuit often persist, even after certain types of research-based instructi...
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The National Science Education Standards emphasize the role of inquiry in the K-12 science classroom and the need for teachers to be prepared to teach using this instructional approach. I participated for several years in the NSF-funded Summer Institute conducted by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington that provides an opport...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington conducts courses in physics and physical science for preservice and inservice teachers. Physics by Inquiry, a research-based curriculum, is used to help teachers develop in-depth understanding of topics relevant to the K-12 classroom.(1) The courses also help teachers become familiar with...
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The Kinematics module from Physics by Inquiry1 has been adapted for and tested in a high school classroom. The adaptation was based on experience gained both as a preservice teacher in special courses taught by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, and also as an instructor in a six-week NSF Summer Institute taught by the gro...
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During the past two years, a unit on mechanical waves has been implemented and assessed in a high school classroom. The unit was adapted from a new module from Physics by Inquiry1, a laboratory-based curriculum for K-12 teachers developed by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. The adaptation and implementation of the unit a...
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A unit based on the Electric Circuits module from Physics by Inquiry1 has been designed for and tested in a public high school classroom. Both the adaptation and the implementation of the unit were informed by three years of participation in an NSF Summer Institute for Inservice Teachers taught by the Physics Education Group at the University of Wa...
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The first law of thermodynamics states that doing work on an otherwise isolated system will cause its energy to change. Student performance in introductory mechanics on pretest and post-test questions suggests that traditional instruction is insufficient to develop a functional understanding of this principle. At the University of Washington, the P...
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Bringing reform instruction to the elementary school classroom requires a teacher to have strong content understanding as well as an understanding of what it means to teach and learn through inquiry. For the past two years, I have participated in the NSF-funded Summer Institute and ongoing academic-year Continuation Course offered by the Physics Ed...
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Full-text available
Physics education research can contribute to efforts by college and university faculty to improve the preparation of K-12 teachers to teach physics and physical science. Examples from topics included in precollege and university curricula are used to demonstrate the need to help K-12 teachers deepen their understanding of basic physics, to illustra...
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For several years I have been participating in the NSF-funded Summer Institutes and ongoing academic-year Continuation Course offered by the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. The in-depth content understanding necessary for me to implement inquiry successfully in my middle-school classroom has grown as a result of these profe...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been developing and modifying research-based instructional materials on waves and physical optics for Tutorials in Introductory Physics. Student performance on many types of post-test questions is very good. In order to assess the effectiveness of the current tutorials, several new res...
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Our findings from a long-term investigation indicate that many students cannot properly interpret or apply the ideal gas law after instruction in introductory physics and chemistry as well as more advanced courses. The emphasis in this paper is on the concepts of pressure, volume, and temperature at the macroscopic level. We describe some serious c...
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Evidence from research indicates that many undergraduate science and engineering majors have seriously flawed microscopic models for the pressure and temperature in an ideal gas. In the investigation described in this paper, some common mistaken ideas about microscopic processes were identified. Examples illustrate the use of this information in th...
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In this paper we describe a long-term, large-scale investigation of the ability of university students to treat velocity and acceleration as vectors in one and two dimensions. Some serious conceptual and reasoning difficulties identified among introductory students also were common among pre-college teachers and physics graduate students. Insights...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been conducting research on student understanding of the second law of thermodynamics. Results indicate that many students emerge from introductory physics courses with an incomplete or incorrect understanding of fundamental concepts that are necessary for understanding the second law...
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The effect of a force on the acceleration of the center of mass of a rigid body does not depend on where the force is applied on the body or how the force is affecting the rotational motion of the body. Even after all instruction, most students in the introductory calculus-based course treat this fact as obviously false. Changing how students think...
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As part of an ongoing research and curriculum development effort, the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington is examining student understanding of quantum mechanics. Recent studies have included the topics of probability, stationary states, spin, and angular momentum. Examples from pretests, post-tests, and interviews will be used...
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Introductory mechanics texts usually present the concept of work in a way that is limited in its applications to systems with no internal degrees of freedom, and may appear to contradict the principle of energy conservation when naively applied to deformable systems. At the University of Washington, the Physics Education Group has been developing r...
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The recent dramatic expansion of activity in physics education research among AAPT members has not been matched by commensurate increases in publication venues. Although the impact of this research field within the broader physics community has sharply increased, the viability of its continued existence is dependent upon substantially expanded publ...
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The view among many faculty that teaching is an art and not a science has prevented the cumulative progress that charac- terizes the sciences. Often, new instructors start from scratch, trusting that personal charisma, intuition, and experience gained through trial and error are sufficient for effective teaching. This approach sometimes works quite...
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This paper is the second of two that describe how research on student understanding of Archimedes' principle is being used to guide the development of instructional materials to supplement instruction on this topic in typical introductory courses. The instructional materials that resulted have proven to be effective. Also discussed are instructiona...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington is developing research-based materials on mechanical waves.(Physics by Inquiry, L.C. McDermott and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, Wiley (1996).)^,(Tutorials in Introductory Physics, L.C. McDermott, P.S. Shaffer and the Physics Education Group at the University...
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Research on the learning and teaching of physics is essential for cumulative improvement in physics instruction. Pursuing this goal through systematic research is efficient and greatly increases the likelihood that innovations will be effective beyond a particular instructor or institutional setting. The perspective taken is that teaching is a scie...
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Physics education research differs from traditional education research in that the emphasis is not on educational theory or methodology in the general sense, but rather on student understanding of physics. Such research requires an in-depth knowledge of the subject as well as access to students, which means that it can usually only be carried out b...
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Scitation is the online home of leading journals and conference proceedings from AIP Publishing and AIP Member Societies
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been investigating student understanding of rigid-body motion in introductory physics, in engineering statics, and in courses for precollege teachers. Examples of specific difficulties will be presented. Development and assessment of a curriculum based on the results of this research w...
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In physics, neither courses for majors nor for non-majors provide the kind of preparation required for teaching physics or physical science by inquiry. Science methods courses cannot help teachers develop the depth of understanding needed for this type of teaching. Since appropriate preparation is not available through the standard curriculum, a pr...
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Research can play a critical role in the development of instructional materials for precollege teachers, for students at the introductory level, and for students in more advanced physics courses. Examples from introductory physical optics are used to illustrate the use of research in identifying student difficulties, in developing instructional str...
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This paper reports on a study of student understanding of the wave nature of matter in the context of the pattern produced by the diffraction and interference of particles. Students in first-year, second-year, and third-year physics courses were asked to predict and explain how a single change in an experimental setup would affect the pattern produ...
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For many years, the Physics Education Group has been conducting research and applying the results to curriculum development. Recently we have expanded our investigation to include topics common to introductory university physics courses and advanced high school physics courses, such as Galilean and special relativity. We will present examples of th...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been engaged in research on student understanding of two-dimensional kinematics. The results have guided the development of instructional materials to address student difficulties with this topic. Ongoing analysis of student responses has provided feedback that is being used to modify...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been conducting research on student understanding of static equilibrium in the context of the introductory calculus-based physics course, introductory courses in engineering, and special science courses for precollege teachers. An example in the context of balancing will be used to ill...
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A major reason for the perceived national crisis in science education is the failure to prepare (K-12) teachers to teach science effectively. Typically, neither physics courses for majors or non-majors provide the kind of preparation required for teaching science as a process of inquiry. Research on the learning and teaching of physics can guide th...
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Experienced instructors recognize that in spite of their best efforts many students emerge from their study of physics with serious gaps in their understanding of important topics. Physicists have begun to approach this problem as an applied science by conducting detailed, systematic studies on the learning and teaching of physics. In the perspecti...
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Full-text available
During an investigation of student understanding of physical optics, we found that some serious difficulties that students have with this topic may be due, at least in part, to a lack of understanding of the nature of light as an electromagnetic wave. We therefore decided to look carefully at how students interpret the diagrammatic and mathematical...
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The purpose of this Resource Letter is to provide an overview of research on the learning and teaching of physics. The references have been selected to meet the needs of two groups of physicists engaged in physics education. The first is the growing number whose field of scholarly inquiry is (or might become) physics education research. The second...
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The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been investigating student understanding of thermal physics. In this paper, our focus is on the ideal gas law. Analysis of student responses in interviews and on written tests administered in first-year and second-year undergraduate courses indicates that after instruction many student...
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This article illustrates the use of research as a basis for the development of curriculum on physical optics. Evidence is presented that university students who have studied physics at the introductory level and beyond often do not have a functional understanding of the wave model for light. Identification and analysis of student difficulties guide...
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INTRODUCTION Experienced instructors recognize that in spite of their best efforts many students emerge from their study of physics with serious gaps in their understanding of important topics. In the last two decades, physicists have begun to approach this problem from a scientific perspective by conducting detailed systematic studies on the learn...
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Results from an investigation of student understanding of physical optics indicate that university students who have studied this topic at the introductory level and beyond often cannot account for the pattern produced on a screen when light is incident on a single or double slit. Many do not know whether to apply geometrical or physical optics to...
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Full-text available
This article describes an investigation of student understanding of geometrical optics and illustrates the use of research as a basis for the development of curriculum. Evidence is presented that university students who have studied physics at the introductory level and beyond often cannot apply basic concepts from geometrical optics to account for...
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Research on the learning and teaching of physics is discipline-specific, focuses on the state of the student, and can be generalized beyond a particular instructor, course, or institution. As an example, this article describes how results from research have contributed to the improvement of student learning in geometrical optics.
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This is the second of two closely related articles that together describe how results from research can be used as a guide for curriculum development. The first article shows how the investigation of student understanding of electric circuits by the Physics Education Group has contributed to the building of a research base. This second article desc...
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Full-text available
The issue of how to assess learning is addressed in the context of an investigation of student understanding of the work-energy and impulse-momentum theorems. Evidence is presented that conceptual and reasoning difficulties with this material extend from the introductory to the graduate level and beyond. A description is given of the development of...
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There has been a steady growth in the amount of documented information that indicates that the standard introductory course is not effective in helping most students develop a functional understanding of physics. As a result, there has been increasing interest in the role that research can play in helping to bridge the gap between teaching and lear...
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This sample class provides an opportunity for faculty to gain direct experience with Tutorials in Introductory Physics. The tutorials are designed to supplement the lecture and textbook of a standard introductory course, both algebra-based and calculus-based. Results from research on the learning and teaching of physics have been crucial in guiding...
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This sample class provides an opportunity for faculty to gain direct experience with the type of instruction that has proved effective for preparing precollege teachers to teach physics and physical science as a process of inquiry. During the class, participants will work through excerpts from Physics by Inquiry, a set of laboratory-based modules s...
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An investigation conducted after standard lecture instruction in a sophomore-level modern physics course revealed that many students were unable to interpret the photoelectric experiment in terms of the photon model for light. Findings from this research were used to guide the development of an interactive computer-based tutorial to address the con...
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These volumes consist of a set of interactive based modules that offer a step-by-step introduction to physics and the physical sciences. Through an in-depth study of a few fundamental concepts, readers develop critical scientific reasoning skills. Volume 1 introduces basic physical ideas and includes topics which represent the essential background...
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A problem on the Atwood's machine is often introduced early in the teaching of dynamics to demonstrate the application of Newton's laws to the motion of a compound system. In a series of preliminary studies, student understanding of the Atwood's machine was examined after this topic had been covered in a typical calculus-based course. Analysis of t...
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Full-text available
This is the second of two closely related articles that together describe how results from research can be used as a guide for curriculum development. The first article shows how the investigation of student understanding of electric circuits by the Physics Education Group has contributed to the building of a research base. This second article desc...
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Full-text available
This is the first of two closely related articles that together describe how results from research can be used as a guide for curriculum development. This first article shows how the investigation of student understanding of electric circuits by the Physics Education Group has contributed to the building of a research base. The second article descr...
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Full-text available
This article proceeds from the premise that one of the major reasons for the perceived crisis in science education is the failure of our colleges and universities to provide the type of preparation that precollege teachers need to teach science effectively. The perspective taken is based on many years of teaching physics and physical science to pro...
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Full-text available
This article describes the fruitful interaction that can occur between research in physics education and the development of instructional software. The first part illustrates how results from research can guide the design of instructional software; the second part demonstrates how the computer itself can be used as an investigatory tool for conduct...
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Student understanding of the impulse-momentum and work-energy theorems was assessed by performance on tasks requiring the application of these relationships to the analysis of an actual motion. The participants in the study were undergraduates enrolled in either the honors section of a calculus-based introductory physics course or in the regular al...
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Some common errors exhibited by students in interpreting graphs in physics are illustrated by examples from kinematics. These are taken from the results of a descriptive study extending over a period of several years and involving several hundred university students who were enrolled in a laboratory-based preparatory physics course. Subsequent test...

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