Physics Prof Awarded PSEER Funding to Integrate and Evaluate Computation in Physics Classrooms

Posted on Monday, May 15th, 2017

Written by Admin

Dr Michael Massa, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics
Dr Michael Massa, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics

Dr Michael Massa was recently awarded $10,000 from PSEER to investigate and evaluate the use of computational tasks to improve student learning in five core courses in the Physics undergraduate degree. Dr Massa also received funding to cover the cost of registration for the Inquire Certificate program through Open Education. 

Project Title: The Impact of Computational Tasks on Learning Physics

The use of computation permeates all areas of physics research – it seems that nothing gets done without the aid of a computer: running instrumentation, modeling systems and analysing data. The intent of this study is to determine the benefits of integrating computational tasks into our existing physics courses.  Rather than compartmentalizing the development of computing skills in a stand-alone course, this project will create “computational tasks” that integrate into five core physics courses at the second-year level. The project will evaluate the role that these tasks play to support learning of the physics content in these courses. The study will also explore long-term effects by following student performance in key third-year physics courses, by comparing the learning gains in content that was reinforced by the second-year computational tasks vs. topics which are not specifically supported. Student receptiveness will also be gauged using pre- and post-activity surveys and results will be disseminated in Spring 2019.


Dr. Michael Massa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics. He has taught extensively at all levels in the undergraduate program and is continually bringing innovative methods of teaching and engagement to the classroom. He has developed in-class and online courses at both the University of Guelph and McMaster University, and recently completed an LEF project with members in the Physics Department that enhances the Personalized System of Instruction in an introductory physics course. In addition to research in physics education, Mike applies his background in soft matter physics to study Active Matter systems, using simple table-top models to mimic the collective behaviours in biological systems, such as a flock of starlings.

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