Noah Finkelstein's Projects / Programs


Supporting the development of a Physics Education Research Group at Colorado (PER@C)

Studying & Effecting Instiutional Change.

STEM Institutional Transformation Action Research Project, an AAU-funded endeeavor.

NSEC: new National Network of STEM education Centers
and affiliated programs with the APLU STEM education efforts,
e.g., Sceince and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, and
__ Reaching the Middle 50%: Engaging traditional, senior faculty in STEM education transformation

BayView Alliance -An coalition of institutions studying transfomration of undergradute education

The Center for STEM Learning (CSL) at CU Boulder (formerly Integrating STEM Education (iSTEM) )
With the support of the NSF (I3: Towards a Center for STEM Education), and the University of Colorado

iSTEM integrates existing efforts and supports new efforts in science, technology, engineering, and math education at CU Boulder. iSTEM is building the STEM education reserach cimmunity, incresing the number and quality of K16 STEM educatotors, and transforming STEM education at CU Boulder. Ultimatley iSTEM seeks to establish CU as a national hub of STEM education and to establish a center for STEM education

Understanding and Reducing the Gender Gap in Math and Science:

Cognitive, Social, and Neural Mechanisms in Identity Threat, NSF DRL REESE, 2009-2012. and NSF IUSE 2013-2017
Studies ranging from the clinical to the controlled learning settings to study plausible mechanisms of stereotype threat. Studies examine the role of working memory as a mechanism of stereotype threat.

Course & Curricular Transformations:

Helping Engineering Students Transform Their Understanding of Quantum Phenomenon and Devices

Undergraduate Students' Epistemology and Expectations of Experimental Physics,

Incorporating Modeling into Upper-division Physics Labs,

Coupling the University with Community Panrters through Informal Science Education - Partnerships in Informal Science Education in the Community


see c.v. for more current activities.


Earlier work upon which this builds

1 page summary of research interests and direction of research (from summer 2004).
Alternately, you can read the nitty gritty details in my proposal for NSF CAREER Fellowship (running 2005-2010).
or my CAREER final report, 2011.

NSF CAREER: Faculty Early Career Development Award: Physics Education Research and Contexts of Student Learning, 2005-2010.

The NSF's "most prestigious award in support of the early career-development" (NSF website). This project supports the breadth my work, both theoretical and experimental investigation of learning physics in context. A variety of programs supported by my CAREER award have focussed on theory and related practices in physcis educaiton. These have focussed on: studnet use of tools (material and intellectual), the role of representations and analogies in student learning, understanding the role of student background including gender and race on learning in our classes, and the nature of institutional development. final report, 2011.

Understanding and Reducing the Gender Gap in Math and Science:

Cognitive, Social, and Neural Mechanisms in Identity Threat, NSF DRL REESE, 2009-2012
Studies ranging from the clinical to the controlled learning settings to study plausible mechanisms of stereotype threat. Studies examine the role of working memory as a mechanism of stereotype threat.

The Physics Education Technology Project (PhET) - University of Colorado Boulder
with the support of the Kavli Foundation, the University of Colorado, and the NSF (CCLI grant Aug 2005).

A project designed to support individuals' interests and abilities in physics through the use of interactive computer simulations.We create and test interactive simulations of physical phenomena and supporting resources aimed at improving the learning and appreciation of physics for a wide range of students, teachers, and the general public. These simulations allow you to explore phenomena and gain visual and conceptual models of the underlying physics principles and their connections to the world around you.

Learning Assistant and STEM-Colorado program:
with support of the Naitonal Science Foundation

STEM-TP is a multi-disciplinary program to support the development of science teachers and reform the undergraduate curriculum. Read about the Colorado Learning Assistant Program in a short article in Science magazine, an article by Science editor Jeffery Mervis (2007) or another article by our research team (2006).

CU Teach Program: recruiting and preparing the next generation of science teachers

Building on the Successful Learning Assistant Program, we have started to restructure the prepartion and certification of future science teachers. This efforts begins Fall 2008 with a substantial grant from the NMSI to replicate the successful UTeach program in Texas.

Using a Research-based Approach to Reform Upper-division Quantum I and E&M I, 2008-2010.

Project designed to couple to CU’s Science Educaiton Initiative. One of the first attempts nationally to transform upper division physics courses based on the research within physics education research. We examine the content and context of upper division courses. Pilot work has successfully introduced a conceptual focus to complement the traditional mathematical problem solving. We have added Tutorials, concept-tests, group-work and evaluation of student learning into these environments.

Research on Models of Institutional Change and Sustainable Reform in Physics (and Science) Education

Recently funded grants to help synthesize a variety of research perspectives on sustainable institutional change in STEM higher education. Two main products will be a research-based review and analysis of the models of change in STEM education and a conference to be held summer 2008.

Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM: An Invitational Symposium Integrating Multiple Perspectives

Conference to be held June 16-19, 2008 at Brook Lodge in SW Michigan. This is conceived as a working conference. The conference goal is to clearly articulate models for promoting fundamental changes in STEM instructional practices in higher education that are consistent with available empirical and historical evidence as well as theoretical perspectives about human and organizational change. Participants from different backgrounds will engage in substantive discussions focused on improving change models and theories. The conference will build on a multi-disciplinary literature review completed by the organizers.

Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) - UC Boulder (starting Fall 2004-Summer 2008)
with the support of the AIP, AAPT, and APS, grant from APS PhysTEC (2004-2008)

Building on local resources, networks, and projects, the Colorado PhysTEC will: support the (re)vitalization of an undergraduate major track in physics and teaching through reforms in undergraduate introductory courses, and increased access into teaching for physics majors; support efforts to more thoroughly mix reformed pedagogy into departmental practice; partner with the School of Education, the STEM-TP collaborative, the CPU-II PET Project, and local schools to create and maintain a continuum of K-12 teacher preparation that begins in the college of Arts and Sciences; partner with other CU initiatives and local schools to create opportunities for school teachers to collaborate in educational at the university and in the schools, and conduct research studies within and evaluations of these coordinated activity systems.
1 page writeup of Colorado PhysTEC (2007).

Informal Science Education Efforts: CU STOMP : and
Parterships in Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC)

In partnership with the Physics Frontier Center at JILA, the CEEO of Tufts, the Colorado Learning Assistant program, and Colorado PhysTEC we implement a variety of after-school and summer school programs to engage children in science, increase undergrad / grad student awareness of education, and promote sustainable community partnerships.

The CIRTL Network: Shaping, Connecting, and Supporting the Future National STEM Faculty, 2008-2011.

  Serving as a Co-Investigator, I am one of the leaders of the K12 Initiative, studying the impact of transformed educational practices on undergraduates and future teachers. I participate in the broader CIRTL network (of seven university including CU) which supports research and transformation of graduate preparation and future faculty practices.

Telling the Story - Learning Math, Science and Engineering Through Animation, 2006-2009.

  A collaborative research program with Tufts University, Princeton University and University of Colorado.  Initially I served to consult on research of educational impacts for this program that designs and studies innovative educational technologies . My role has expanded to include pilot studies, and future collaborative proposals, which are in review. These tools are being studied in the STOMP / PISEC programs

Implementing Tutorials Sustainably:  Restructuring Undergraduate Recitations and Laboratories in Introductory Physics

Modification and study of the intro physics sequence for majors / engineers:
with the support of the NSF CCLI (Aug 2004 - Aug 2007).
The problem:  This comprehensive effort focuses on improving the traditional recitation sections and laboratories in an introductory calculus-based physics sequence.  Such laboratories and recitations are demonstrably ineffective at developing students' conceptual mastery of physics and expectations of learning physics However, proven solutions, in the form of Tutorials require demands of the university that cannot immediately be provided -- particularly, the number and training of adequately prepared instructors or TA's.

 Objective:  This adaptation and implementation effort will create a long-term solution by institutionalizing a unified, transformed course experience that ultimately demands no more resources of the university than presently allotted.  The assembled research team will implement Tutorials in Introductory Physics,4which are among the most deeply-researched, and widely-used, effective reforms of traditional physics recitation sections.  These reforms will be coupled with a revised laboratory sequence that emphasizes sense-making and experimentation, with the goal of marked improvement in students' conceptual mastery of physics and in students' expectations of what it means to learn physics.  Significantly, these transformations will be supported and sustained by a new advanced course in teaching and learning physics.

Read our final report .

Preparing Future Physicists (formerly Preparing Future Physics Faculty):
with the support of the NSF, and CU Programs: LEAP, the GTP, and FTEP.

The Preparing Future Physics Faculty (PFPF) program augments traditional CU physics grad and postdoctoral student preparation. Typically, grad students / postdocs finish their programs with excellent research skills, but little idea how to teach a class, write a grant, or apply for a job

Look for the writeup in Am J. of Physics by E. Price and N. Finkelstein (to appear 2007).

Reforming the laboratories for algebra based physics sequence.

Recent transformation of the labs in the algebra based 2nd semester Physics 2: as part of the FTEP summer funding (2005)

Prior work on: Physics 2010 and 2020 revised labs and studies. with Chris Keller. full piece (warning -- this is 4MB)

Physics Department Brownbags in Education:

departmental discussions in education.

Partner Efforts

Physics consultant. Science Media Group, Havard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Essential Science program - Graduate course in elementary school instruction.

Partner in reforms developed at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) at Tufts University.
including the STOMP program and the
Stop Action Motion (SAM) animation program for kids

A semi-complete list of grants (2006):

PI: NSF CAREER: Faculty Early Career Development Award: PER and Contexts of Student Learning, 2005-2010.
Co-PI: NSF: DRL REESE: STEM Educational Change in Higher Ed, (recommended) 2007-  2009.
PI: American Physical Society: Colorado PhysTEC: Physics Teacher Education Coalition, 2004- 2008.
Co-PI: NSF: DUE CCLI, Physics Education Technology Project, 2005-2008.
Co-PI: NSF: SBE HSD, Facilitating Change in Higher Education, 2006- 2008
PI: NSF: DUE, CCLI, Implementing Tutorials Sustainably, 2004- 2007.
PI: University of Colorado, Outreach Committee, Science Explorers, 2006-2007.
PI: University of Colorado, Council on Research and Creative Work, Physics Education Research, 2004.
PI: University of Colorado, Service Learning Program: Teaching and Learning Physics, 2004.
PI: Univ. of Colorado, Cntr for Leadership Education for Advancement and Promotion, 2003-2004.

Senior Personnel / Co-Author: NSF CCLI #0613426 The CIRTL Network: Shaping, Connecting, and Supporting the Future National STEM Faculty, 2008-2011.
Senior Personnel / Co-Author: NSF ESI: Teacher Professional Continuum, ESI: 0554616, LA-TEST: Learning Assistant Model of Teacher Education in Science and Technology, 2006-2011.
Senior Personnel / Co-Author: NSF IIS # 0511965, Collaborative Research: Telling the Story - Learning Math, Science and Engineering Through Animation, 2006-2009.


I have a host of projects with which I stay affiliated at UCSD.

Preparing Future Physics Faculty - UCSD Department of Physics and Center for Teaching Development

A training program for graduate students in the physics department at UCSD. Supported by the American Association of Physics Teachers and the National Science Foundation. Graduate students receive instruction in teaching, educational practice, grant writing, and supervision. Students are mentored in teaching in the college and university environments and given the opportunity to become instructors of record at local partnering institutions of higher education.


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