Steven Wolf Homepage
I am a postdoctoral research associate working at the CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University. I am interested in how physicists develop expertise and studying that development. Ultimately, my goal is to develop an assessment of the scientific practice of modeling, specifically mathematical modeling. One of the key aspects of creating a model is utilizing physical concepts to make predictions about a system's behavior. Therefore, the way students organize physics problems is a gateway into studying this development. In light of this, my thesis work focused on the different ways that experts and novices organize physics problems and determining the different types of problems that distinguish expert from novice on a sorting task. One of the key results from that study, was that experts and novices are more distinct when considering non-traditional problem types. Other recent results indicate that students have varying levels of expertise, even within a single college physics class.
I am also studying a number of ways that we can transform instruction. I was part of a team which implemented the Tutorials in Introductory Physics in the Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University, where we assessed the efficacy of that intervention and noted some of the difficulties with inquiry-based instruction. As a part of my role at the Institute, I have recently been working with the Math department to study an intervention in MTH 100E class. This intervention is novel in part because we are using Pre-Service Mathematics teachers to implement an inquiry-based curriculum in the face-to-face component of a hybrid course. Our team is focused on assessing the intervention on both the mathematics students, as well as the pre-service teachers on a number of academic as well as affective scales. Most recently, I helped write a grant to create a problem-based learning course in calculus based introductory mechanics, which we were awarded. Ultimately, we will use this environment to study, not only the conceptual development of students, but their development of and engagement with scientific practices.