Faculty - John Thompson
John R. Thompson
Associate Professor of Physics, Cooperating Associate Professor of Education, and member of the Center for Research in STEM Education
Office: 223 Bennett Hall
- 1990 B.S. in Physics (cum laude), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- 1992 Sc.M. in Physics, Brown University
- 1998 Ph.D. in Physics, Brown University
Physics Education Research – research on the learning and teaching of physics – including research-based curriculum development. Co-manage research group of 15-20 members, including undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, and faculty.
Current active research topics:
- Student understanding of thermal physics at advanced undergraduate levels in physics, especially:
- entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
- student models for entropy, in the context of ideal gas processes
- student application of the Second Law to heat engines and thermodynamic cyclic processes
- comparisons of student entropy models across disciplines (chemistry, chemical engineering, and physics)
- The relationship between conceptual understanding in physics and knowledge of the associated and underlying mathematics
- integration in the context of process variables and state functions
- partial differentiation in the contexts of material properties and the Maxwell relations
- probability in the context of statistical distributions
- Understanding of teaching and learning in physics by graduate students and teachers, and the interplay between specialized content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (knowledge of the teaching and learning of a topic).
- Student understanding of vectors and vector operations.
- Student understanding of two-dimensional kinematics, including the context dependence of that understanding and the interpretations of different representations. Development and assessment of curriculum that emphasizes conceptual understanding and transfer to different contexts.
- Conceptual understanding of sound at both the introductory level and among preservice and inservice K-12 teachers. Development of curriculum on sound aimed at elementary teachers, and on longitudinal waves aimed at introductory physics students
Other topics of interest:
- Student understanding of magnetic fields and representations thereof, and in particular of the magnetic structure of flexible refrigerator magnets
- Student understanding of concepts in 9th- and 12th-grade physics courses: investigating the Physics First movement
M.J. O’Brien and J.R. Thompson, “Effectiveness of ninth-grade physics in Maine: Conceptual understanding,” The Physics Teacher 47(4), 234-239 (2009).
M.C. Wittmann and J.R. Thompson, “Integrated approaches in physics education: A graduate level course in physics, pedagogy, and education research,” American Journal of Physics 76(7), 677-683 (2008).