Physics and Astronomy Colloquium - Dr. Rachel Henderson, Michigan State University
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Title: Advancing Assessment in Physics Education: Bringing Psychometrics to Physics Education Research with an Eye to Equity and Inclusion
Abstract: The field of Physics Education Research (PER) has made major contributions to various educational practices and materials to reform instruction in order to recruit and retain more students. However, while many research-based instructional strategies in physics have continued to advance, reform in undergraduate physics assessment has had limited space in these conversations and needs more attention. As educators, we would like to prepare our physics students for 21st century careers. In addition to providing the robust set of skills that students are expected to have after receiving a degree in physics, the physics community seeks to increase diversity within our classrooms. Overall, to ensure all students will become successful scientists, physics departments need to be able to provide evidence to make sure that we are reaching these goals. The importance of fairness and equity in assessment for undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is greater than ever. In this talk, I will motivate, through my prior research experiences, the need for the next generation of physics assessments. Advancing the practices and tools of assessment in physics, so that they are valid, fair, and effective, can better provide equal educational access and better ensure success for our students.
Bio: Rachel earned her Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. She then went on to do her graduate work at West Virginia University where she completed her Master’s and PhD in physics. A little over two years ago, she moved here to Michigan where she did her postdoc work in collaboration with Danny Caballero in the Physics Education Research Lab at Michigan State University. Rachel is currently the newest Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the CREATE for STEM Institute at MSU. She also serves as a member-at-large for the APS Topical Group on Data Science and the APS Topical Group on Physics Education Research. She was most recently nominated to serve on the American Association of Physics Teacher Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing Council (PERLOC). In general, Rachel’s research focuses on developing and implementing inclusive and equitable assessment tools that can be used to improve learning for all students within the physics classroom.