Feature Story | 6-Nov-2023

Elevating physics education: Auburn professor's active learning workshop takes center stage in Ecuador

Sparking innovation: Auburn's initiative paves the way for physics teaching excellence in Ecuador

Auburn University Department of Physics

AUBURN, November 2023 — Auburn University's Department of Physics is proud of the results of the “Workshop on Active Learning” at Escuela Politécnica Nacional (EPN) in Quito, Ecuador. The weeklong workshop, held from October 23-27, 2023, showcased the dedication of both institutions to improve the teaching of physics using research-based practices.

Assistant Professor of Physics Education Research in the Department of Physics at Auburn University, Eric Burkholder, led this groundbreaking initiative. Ten members from the Department of Physics at EPN actively engaged in this workshop, focusing on research-based teaching techniques.

“This represents a significant stride in enhancing the quality of undergraduate physics education in Ecuador,” Burkholder remarked. “It's encouraging to see educators from diverse backgrounds and experiences converging to refine their teaching methodologies.”

Esteban Irribarra, chair of the Department of Physics at EPN, was a key collaborator for this event. The workshop's impact is already being felt, with one participant noting the immense benefit of “having an expert in active education capable of answering questions and dispelling doubts.”

The workshop incorporated the latest findings and best practices from Burkholder's research on scientific problem-solving and the development of expertise in undergraduate physics students. It provided a platform for educators to understand how to make their teaching more effective and practice applying principles of educational design to their courses.

Reflecting on the experience, Burkholder stated, “This was an incredible learning opportunity for me. It was inspiring to witness physics educators from different backgrounds coming together to enhance the way they teach. The workshop offered insights into the lessons we can learn from each other's educational systems.”

Further strengthening the collaboration between the two countries Burkholder and Irribarra are now working on developing an M.S. program in physics education at EPN. This initiative aims to bridge the educational practices of the two countries and foster a more globally integrated approach to physics education.

Moreover, they are consulting with other experts in physics education to study the process of institutional change in the department at EPN and understand the cultural influences on reforming educational practices.

For more information or inquiries, please contact the Communications Office, Department of Physics, Auburn University.

About Auburn University's Department of Physics

Auburn University's Department of Physics offers undergraduate and graduate programs, fostering a commitment to innovative research and education. The department emphasizes collaborative research and provides students with the necessary resources to excel in their academic and professional endeavors.

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