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August 12, 2004 :: No. 21

Physics Professor Puts Student Learning Under the Microscope

Michael E. Loverude, assistant professor of physics at California State University, Fullerton, soon will be trying to get into college students’ heads — to find out if they understand what they are taught about science.

Loverude has received $46,194 in first-year funding from the National Science Foundation to study student learning in introductory physics labs — courses taken by students in several science degree programs. The three-year project will provide data on what concepts students have trouble understanding for the purpose of charting new paths to comprehension.

“We will be performing assessments of student learning through interviews and tests,” says Loverude. “We will see if existing materials need to be adapted or if new materials need to be created, in order to deal with special topics and subjects that students consistently have difficulty in understanding.”

Partners in the study with Loverude are physics colleagues on the faculties of Arizona and New Mexico state universities who also received NSF funding for the project. They also have collaborators at Chicago State University, Seattle Pacific University and Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Loverude joined Cal State Fullerton in 1999 after completing his doctorate at the University of Washington. The Long Beach resident currently teaches courses on “Physics for the Non-Science Major,” “Physical Science for Future Elementary Teachers” and “Fundamental Physics.” His articles about student understanding have been published in the American Journal of Physics and the Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference.

Media Contacts:  

Michael E. Loverude, assistant professor of physics, at 657-278-2270 or

Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at 657-278-4852 or