Frederick Reif - Physics Education Research

After more than 10 years of research in physics, Fred turned to research in education. He was among the pioneers in the development of the phenomenon of physics education research in the 1960s, a field he was devoted to as “analytical yet humanly compelling.” He also cofounded its first formal, interdisciplinary PhD program, known as the SESAME program (Graduate Group in Science and Mathematics Education), at UC Berkeley in 1969 together with Bob Karplus. At Carnegie Mellon, Fred was instrumental in introducing numerous educational innovations to the physics department, including group work with whiteboards, undergraduate teaching assistants, and interactive teaching methods like concept tests in lectures to gauge student comprehension (early precursors to today’s “clickers”). He also made a profound, lasting, and much-adored influence on the science teaching department at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. In 1994 he was awarded the Robert A. Millikan Medal, which recognizes those who have made notable and intellectually creative contributions to the teaching of physics. He was also a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 1988 he received a Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Excellence Award. His final book, Applying cognitive science to education: Thinking and learning in scientific domains, was published in 2008 by the MIT Press.

Symposium in memory of Fred Reif

Prof. Bat Sheva Eylon

Professional Learning Communities:
An optimist lever to promote knowledge integration in Physics classroom.

Prof. Bat Sheva Eylon,
the Department of Science Teaching
Weizmann Institute of Science

Watch the presentation by Bat-Sheva Eylon

Alan Schoenfeld, PH.D.

Applying Cognitive Science to Physics Education
The legacy of Frederick Reif,A Pessimist who loved Optimists

Alan Schoenfeld,
School of Education
UC Berkeley

Watch the presentation by Alan Schoenfeld

Lisa Scott Holt, PH.D.

Fred Reif’s Principled Aproach…
to Everything!

Lisa Scott Holt,
Director, Human Interaction & Performance
Intelligent Automation, Inc.
Rokvill, Maryland

Watch the presentation by Lisa Scott

Physics Education

Applying Cognitive Science to Education: Thinking and Learning in Scientific and Other Complex Domains, MIT Press, (2008)

Many students find it difficult to learn the kind of knowledge and thinking required by college or high school courses in mathematics, science, or other complex domains. Thus they often emerge with significant misconceptions, fragmented knowledge, and inadequate problem-solving skills. ...

Most instructors or textbook authors approach their teaching efforts with a good knowledge of their field of expertise but little awareness of the underlying thought processes and kinds of knowledge required for learning in scientific domains. In this book, Frederick Reif presents an accessible coherent introduction to some of the cognitive issues important for thinking and learning in scientific or other complex domains (such as mathematics, science, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, or expository writing).

The book on Academia_edu

Millikan Lecture 1994: Understanding and teaching important scientific thought processes

Physics is an intellectually demanding discipline and many students have difficulties learning to deal with it. Further, our instruction is often far less effective than we realize. ...

Indeed, recent investigations have revealed that many students, even when getting good grades, emerge from their basic physics courses with signification scientific misconcepts, with prescientific notions, with poor problem-solving skills, and with an inability to apply what they ostensibly learned. In short, students' acquired physics knowledge is often largely nominal rather than functiional.

This situation leads one to ask: Why is this so, and what can be done about it? More specifically, it has led me to address the following two basic questions: (a) Can one understand better the underlying throught processes required to deal with a science like physics? (b) How can such an understanding be used to design more effective instruction?

These are the questions which have been the focus of my work during the last several years and which I want to discuss in this article.

American Journal of Physics: Volume 63, Issue 1, Pages 17-32

Read the 1994 AJP Millikan lecture