Physics Education Research (PER) is an interdisciplinary field that uses methods and frameworks from educational psychology, sociology, and other social sciences to improve teaching and learning in physics. There has been increasing focus at WPI in this area. In this talk I will give an overview of some of the PER projects that are ongoing at WPI. One area of focus is grading practices. Grading can serve to rank students, gatekeep, and influence students’ careers and livelihoods, all in inequitable ways. Some educators have been turning a critical gaze towards grading and evaluative practices overall. One alternative is “ungrading,” the practice of de-emphasizing or removing grades as a motivating factor in formal education settings. I will present an overview for ungrading approaches and their connections to equity and supporting student success, and describe preliminary efforts to implement ungrading in WPI physics courses. One such ungraded course at WPI is the intermediate physics lab course. Lab courses involve types of learning distinct from theory courses, and offer critical learning opportunities that other courses do not. I will present work on two such learning outcomes: experimental modeling and scientific writing.
Biography: Dr. Pollard's research focuses on teaching and learning in physics laboratory courses. He is also involved in community building and organization to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice in STEM, including as a core organizer in The Access Network. Previously, he was a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Heather Lewandowski and the Physics Education Research group at the University of Colorado Boulder. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder in the field of nano-optics. Before that, he earned his bachelor's degree from Pomona College in physics and computer science.