Developing Physics Competences

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					         Supporting the Design of
 Discipline-Specific Learning Outcomes:

Experiences of the Tuning Group for Physics

                 Gareth Jones
            Imperial College London
• 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.
• 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
• Subject Specific Competences
    – Competences required and/or valued by profession/discipline
    – Different universities may emphasise particular competences and de-
      emphasise 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









              Apply Knowledge Identify, Pose and   Determination &   Oral & Written   Teamwork   Make Reasoned   Stay up-to-date
                in Practice   Resolve Problems      Perserverence    Communication                 Decisions      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
 •   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
• 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
• 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 one‟s 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   Ability to enter new   Ability to enter new   Mathematical Skills
                              fields                 fields
Modelling Skills              Experimental Skills    Deep Knowledge &       Estimation Skills
Problem Solving               Literature Search      Mathematical Skills    Deep Knowledge &
Estimation Skills             Estimation Skills      Problem Solving        Ability to enter new fields

Foreign Language Skills       Deep Knowledge &       Modelling Skills       Experimental Skills
Managing Skills               Specific               Experimental Skills    Problem Solving
                              Communication Skills
                                                                                        Importance Score


                                      M                     ld
                                          od                     s
                                     Pr                       ills
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                          ig                             Sk
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                                            g        e
             Sp                       M                        ills
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                                     m                     ills
                                M                 n
                                    at                   Sk
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                                                    l    Sk
                                    Li                     ills
                      In                    tu
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                          rd                         Se
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                 Hu                     lin
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                                                                                                                                                                   Tuning Survey of Competences 2008 - Physics

                     an                           Ab
                                 Pr                 ilit
                                      es                  s
                                Ex                  S      kil
                                  pe                           ls

  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
   – 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
• 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 = Σ (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    Apprec.   Problem Maths    Experimental Communication
               &            work of   Solving Skills   Skills       Skills
               Understand   Genius
Mechanics        50%        10%       30%     10%
& Relativity

Maths 1          20%                   30%     50%

1st Yr Lab       10%                           10%        50%           30%

Quantum          60%         20%       15%                              5%

Professional                           20%     10%                      30%
 Steps in Physics BSc Programme Design
  –   (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, …

  –   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
   –   LO‟s 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 LO‟s 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
                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 LO’s
• 1st Year Mechanics Module LO‟s (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 Newton‟s Laws in a wide range of areas of physics
   – Aware of the power of conservation laws
   – Aware of more advanced methods of Lagrangians etc.
• 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 Pan-
  European way