Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Brian D. Thoms

Second Advisor

Michael F. Schatz

Third Advisor

Rajshekhar Sunderraman

Fourth Advisor

Marcos D. Caballero


The Engage to Excel (PCAST) report, the National Research Council's Framework for K-12 Science Education, and the Next Generation Science Standards all call for transforming the physics classroom into an environment that teaches students real scientific practices. This work describes the early stages of one such attempt to transform a high school physics classroom. Specifically, a series of model-building and computational modeling exercises were piloted in a ninth grade Physics First classroom. Student use of computation was assessed using a proctored programming assignment, where the students produced and discussed a computational model of a baseball in motion via a high-level programming environment (VPython). Student views on computation and its link to mechanics was assessed with a written essay and a series of think-aloud interviews. This pilot study shows computation's ability for connecting scientific practice to the high school science classroom.