We describe restructuring the introductory physics for life science students (IPLS) course to better support these students in using physics to understand their chosen fields. Our courses teach physics using biologically rich contexts. Specifically, we use examples in which fundamental physics contributes significantly to understanding a biological system to make explicit the value of physics to the life sciences. This requires selecting the course content to reflect the topics most relevant to biology while maintaining the fundamental disciplinary structure of physics. In addition to stressing the importance of the fundamental principles of physics, an important goal is developing students' quantitative and problem solving skills. Our guiding pedagogical framework is the cognitive apprenticeship model, in which learning occurs most effectively when students can articulate why what they are learning matters to them. In this article, we describe our courses, summarize initial assessment data, and identify needs for future research.

1.
Committee on Undergraduate Biology Education, National Research Council
,
BIO 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
(
National Academies Press
,
Washington, DC
,
2003
).
2.
American Association for the Advancement of Science
,
Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: A call to action
(
AAAS Press
,
2011
).
3.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute—American Association of Medical Colleges Committee
,
Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians
(
American Association of Medical Colleges
,
Washington, DC
(
2009
).
4.
The reasons behind this standard mismatch between the introductory course syllabus and topics of importance to biology are given excellent discussion by
E.
Brewe
,
N. J.
Pelaez
, and
T. J.
Cooke
, “
From Vision to Change: Educational initiatives and research at the intersection of physics and biology
,”
special issue of CBE–Life Sciences Education
12
,
117
119
(
2013
). Several of other articles in that issue also discuss this.
5.
J. E.
Watkins
,
K. L.
Hall
,
J. E.
Coffey
,
T. J.
Cooke
, and
E. F.
Redish
Disciplinary authenticity: Enriching the reform of introductory physics courses for life science students
,”
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Ed. Res.
8
,
010112
1
(
2011
).
6.
J.
Svoboda
,
V.
Sawtelle
,
B. D.
Geller
, and
C.
Turpen
, “
A framework for analyzing interdisciplinary tasks: implications for student learning and curricular design
,”
Cell Biol. Educ. Life Sci. Educ.
12
, p.
187
205
(
2013
).
7.

See for example the programs for the sessions “Reforming the Introductory Physics Course for Life Science Students” held at the AAPT national meetings since Summer 2009, <www.aapt.org/AbstractSearch>, the CBE-LSE special issue (Ref. 6), and the IPLS Wiki, <www.phys.gwu.edu/iplswiki>, with documents from the NSF-funded 2009 workshop.

8.
D. C.
Meredith
and
E. F.
Redish
, “
Reinventing physics for life-sciences majors
,”
Phys. Today
66
(
7
),
38
43
(
2013
).
9.
Other articles in this special issue similarly report successful course reforms.
10.
As an ultimate goal is for students to apply the ideas and skills of physics in learning to another field, such as biology or medicine, it is important to include such applications in the initial learning process. We refer to the ability to apply physics knowledge to solve biological problems as the ability to transfer. However, by “transfer” we mean that students find it easier to learn to use these ideas (physics) in a relatively new context (a different biological problem than one they have previously seen). For example, see
D. L.
Schwartz
,
J. D.
Bransford
, and
D.
Sears
, “
Efficiency and innovation in transfer
,”
Transfer of Learning: Research and Perspectives
, edited by
J.
Mestre
(
Information Age Publishing
,
Charlotte
2005)
, pp.
1
51
, and Refs. 11–13. This is different than another, more traditional, definition of transfer to mean that something taught in one context can be applied by the student to another context without any further support—for example, that after taking a mathematics course, students in a biology course can use the previously learned mathematics without support. It is controversial whether transfer according to this definition ever occurs among non-experts.
11.
D. K.
Detterman
The case for the prosecution: Transfer as an epiphenomenon
,”
Transfer on trial: Intelligence, cognition, and instruction
, edited by
D. K.
Detterman
and
R.
Sternberg
(
Ablex Publishing
,
New York
,
1993
), pp.
1
24
.
12.
D. N.
Perkins
and
T.
Grotzer
Teaching intelligence
,”
Am. Psychol.
52
,
1125
1133
(
1997
).
13.
D. F.
Halpern
Teaching critical thinking for transfer across domains
,”
Am. Psychol.
53
,
449
455
(
1998
).
14.
A.
Collins
,
J. S.
Brown
, and
A.
Holum
, “
Cognitive apprenticeship: making thinking visible
,”
Am. Educ.
4
,
6
46
(Winter
1991
).
15.
R. A.
Engle
, “
Framing interactions to foster generative learning: A situative explanation of transfer in a community of learners classroom
,”
J. Learn. Sci.
15
(
4
),
451
498
(
2006
).
16.
R. A.
Engle
,
P. D.
Nguyen
, and
A.
Mendelson
, “
The influence of framing on transfer: Initial evidence from a tutoring experiment
,”
Instruc. Sci.
39
,
603
628
(
2011
).
17.
For example,
G.
Benedek
and
F.
Villars
,
Physics With Illustrative Examples From Medicine and Biology
(
Addison-Wesley
,
1979
);
R.
Bruinsma
, “UCLA Physics for Life Science Majors,” course notes published by Hayden-McNeil (
2006
);
J.
Marion
,
General Physics with Bioscience Essays
(
Wiley
,
New York
,
1979
); and the Humanized Physics Project, <http://physics.doane.edu/hpp>.
18.

“To ensure that all students graduate with a basic level of scientific literacy and meet the challenges raised in [the Bio 2010 and SFFP reports] and similar reports, biologists, physicists, chemists, and mathematicians need to look thoughtfully at ways they can introduce interdisciplinary approaches into their gateway courses.” Vision and Change (Ref. 2), p. 54.

19.
For example,
S.
Amador Kane
,
Introduction to Physics in Modern Medicine
(
CRC Press
,
New York
,
2002
);
P.
Davidovits
,
Physics in Biology and Medicine
(
Academic Press
,
New York
,
2001
);
R. K.
Hobbie
,
Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology
(
Springer Verlag
,
New York
,
1997
),
R. K.
Hobbie
, “
Physics useful to a medical student
,”
Am. J. Phys.
42
,
121
132
(
1975
),
R. K.
Hobbie
, “
Resource letter MP-1: Medical physics
,”
Am. J. Phys.
53
,
822
829
(
1985
);
S. B.
Nichparenko
, “
Premed physics: What and why
,”
J. Coll. Sci. Teach.
14
,
391
394
(
1985
).
21.
Preview Guide for the MCAT 2015 Exam, Second Edition (September
2012
), available online at <https://www.aamc.org/students/download/266006/data/2015previewguide.pdf/>.
22.
A.
Collins
,
J. S.
Brown
, and
S. E.
Newman
, “
Cognitive Apprenticeship: Teaching the Crafts of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics
,” in
Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser
, edited by
L. B.
Resnick
(
Lawrence Erlbaum
,
Hillsdale, NJ
,
1990
), pp.
453
494
.
23.
J.
Clement
, “
Using bridging analogies and anchoring intuitions to deal with students' preconceptions in physics
,”
J. Res. Sci. Teach
.
30
,
1241
1257
(
1993
).
24.
Based on the approach of
G.
Novak
,
E.
Patterson
,
A.
Gavrin
, and
W.
Christian
,
Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending Active Learning and Web Technology
(
Prentice-Hall
,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ
,
1999
) and <http://webphysics.iupui.edu/jitt/jitt.html/>.
25.
D.
Hestenes
, “
Modeling games in the Newtonian world
,”
Am. J. Phys.
60
,
732
748
(
1992
).
26.
C. H.
Crouch
,
J.
Watkins
,
A. P.
Fagen
, and
E.
Mazur
Peer Instruction: Engaging students one-on-one, all at once
” in
Research-Based Reforms in University Physics
, edited by
E. F.
Redish
, (
American Association of Physics Teachers
,
College Park, MD
,
2007
), pp.
1
55
. <http://www.compadre.org/PER/items/detail.cfm?ID=4990>
27.
T.
O'Kuma
,
D.
Maloney
, and
C.
Hieggelke
,
Ranking Task Exercises in Physics
(
Pearson Education
,
San Francisco
,
2000
).
28.
P.
Heller
,
R.
Keith
, and
S.
Anderson
, “
Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. Part 1: Designing problems and structuring groups
,”
Am. J. Phys.
60
,
627
636
(
1992
).
29.
P.
Heller
and
M.
Hollabaugh
, “
Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. Part 2: Group versus individual problem solving
,”
Am. J. Phys.
60
,
637
644
(
1992
).
30.
P.
Heller
,
K.
Heller
, and
T.
Foster
, “
Cooperative group problem solving laboratories for introductory classes
,” Proceedings of the International Conference on Undergraduate Physics Education (
College Park
, MD,
1996
), College Park: AIP Conference Proceedings Vol.
399
, pp.
913
934
(
1996
).
31.
The details of the following case study are drawn from the course at Swarthmore; the course at Minnesota is very similar.
32.
C. H.
Crouch
Capstone examples for second semester IPLS
,” Presentation at American Association of Physics Teachers Winter 2011 meeting, <http://materials.physics.swarthmore.edu/IPLSTalks/>, (
2011
).
33.
Based on
L.
McDermott
and
P.
Shaffer
and the University of Washington Physics Education Group,
Tutorials in Introductory Physics
, 2nd ed. (
Pearson
,
2013
), pp.
185
207
.
34.
Instruction draws upon ConcepTests from Mazur
,
Peer Instruction: A User's Manual
, and the University of Washington “
Convex Lenses
” tutorial (McDermott, Shaffer and the UWPEG,
Tutorials in Introductory Physics
[
Prentice-Hall
,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ
,
2002
)] among other sources. The instructional materials are available on the web site.
35.
Panchompoo Wisittanawat,
K.
Ann Renninger
, and
Catherine H.
Crouch
, “
The role of interest in physics in the effect of using life science examples in introductory physics
,” poster presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2013 (
Portland
, OR, July
2013
).
36.
W. K.
Adams
,
K. K.
Perkins
,
N. S.
Podolefsky
,
M.
Dubson
,
N. D.
Finkelstein
, and
C. E.
Wieman
, “
New instrument for measuring student beliefs about physics and learning physics: The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey
,”
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Ed. Res.
2
, 010101,
1
14
(
2006
).
37.
C. H.
Crouch
,
P.
Wisttanawat
, and
K. A.
Renninger
, “
Initial interest, goals, and changes in CLASS scores in introductory physics for life sciences
,” Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference 2013, eds.
P.
Engelhardt
,
A.
Churukian
, and
D.
Jones
(
AAPT
, Washington, DC,
2013
).
38.
Similar MPEX results are reported in
G.
Kortemeyer
, “
The Challenge of Teaching Introductory Physics to Premedical Students
,”
Phys. Teach.
45
(
9
),
552
557
(
2007
).
39.
Statements written by the University of Maryland Physics Education Group and shared as part of collaborations through the NSF project “
Creating a Common Thermodynamics
” and NEXUS/Physics.
40.
Survey designed and administered by Philip Kudish, Swarthmore College Department of Biology, with Prof. Kathleen Siwicki, as part of the evaluation for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.
41.
D.
Hestenes
,
M.
Wells
, and
G.
Swackhammer
, “
Force concept inventory
,”
Phys. Teach.
30
,
141
151
(
1992
).
42.
L.
Ding
,
R.
Chabay
,
B.
Sherwood
, and
R. J.
Beichner
, “
Evaluating an electricity and magnetism assessment tool: brief electricity and magnetism assessment
,”
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Ed. Res.
2
,
010105
1
(
2006
).
43.
For example, the authors are aware of work underway to develop fluids concept inventories by Vesenka (Univ. of New England) and Meredith (UNH), and by Wagner (Grove City College)
44.
J.
Docktor
and
K.
Heller
, “
Assessment of student problem solving processes
,”
AIP Conf. Proc.
1179
,
133
136
(
2009
).
45.
These are not exhaustive of all the research needed to support IPLS development; for example, work must also be done to characterize the student population on many different lines (i.e. Watkins et al,
2012
).
46.
C.
Henderson
and
M.
Dancy
, “
Impact of physics education research on the teaching of introductory quantitative physics in the United States
,”
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Ed. Res.
5
,
020107
1
(
2009
).
47.
E.
Yerushalmi
,
C.
Henderson
,
K.
Heller
,
P.
Heller
, and
V.
Kuo
, “
Physics faculty beliefs and values about the teaching and learning of problem solving. I. Mapping the common core
,”
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Ed. Res.
3
,
020109
1
(
2007
).
48.
E.
Yerushalmi
,
E.
Cohen
,
K.
Heller
,
P.
Heller
, and
C.
Henderson
, “
Instructors' reasons for choosing problem features in a calculus-based introductory physics course
,”
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Ed. Res.
6
,
020108
1
(
2010
).
49.
C.
Henderson
,
E.
Yerushalmi
,
V. H.
Kuo
,
K.
Heller
, and
P.
Heller
, “
Physics faculty beliefs and values about the teaching and learning of problem solving. II. Procedures for measurement and analysis
,”
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Ed. Res.
3
,
020110
1
(
2007
).

Supplementary Material

AAPT members receive access to the American Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.