Dr. Brant Hinrichs' Undergraduate Research

Dr. Brant Hinrichs got his Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spent two years in Tokyo, Japan as a research postdoc, returning to the states in 1997 to begin a teaching career. He got hooked on investigating how his students learned and didn't learn, and now, when time permits, does work in Physics Education Research, comparing how students learn and understand microscopic and macroscopic models of physics phenomena. He collaborates on this work with his colleague Dr. Beth Ann Thacker at Texas Tech. He currently is an Associate Professor at Drury, where he teaches the gamut from General Physics to senior-level quantum mechanics. Dr. Hinrichs joined Drury University in 1999.

Learn More about Dr. Hinrichs Research on disagreement and consensus in student-led whole-class discussions.

Title: Disagreement and Consensus in Student-Led Whole-Class Discussions

One of the goals of science courses at Drury University is to give students an authentic experience doing science. A crucial feature of doing science is realizing that science itself is tentative and evolving; that in science, knowledge and meaning are often constructed and shared through dialogue. Some introductory physics courses at Drury are organized in a learning community approach to facilitate that kind of experience for students.

This research project studies the student-led whole-class discussions of those courses. Sometimes those conversations are very productive, and other times not as much. Often, a class will be able to narrow down their ideas to two different competing thoughts, but then get stuck. But occasionally, they will be able to overcome those disagreements and achieve whole-class consensus. We are seeking to understand what features lead to such productive consensus-building conversations, with the hope that going forward, they can then be explicitly and effectively taught to students.

We study transcripts of audio recordings of class conversations as well as other artifacts from the class (student generated small whiteboard problem solutions, etc.)