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Authors: Einstein, Lisa
Advisors: Spergel, David
Marshall, Susan
Contributors: Meyers, Peter
Department: Physics
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: Can dance enhance students’ understanding of physics? We carry out two distinct experiments to test dance-based education: one involving the photoelectric effect and the other involving gravitational waves. Both experiments showed dramatic results. The photoelectric effect is the emission of electrons from matter illuminated by light. The deep implications and straightforward calculations of photoelectric problems as explained by Einstein make it a powerful tool for teaching he quantum postulate. The photon model introduced by Einstein to explain this effect in 1905 conflicted with Maxwell’s widely accepted theory of light. Their conflicting explanations exemplified the inability of classical concepts such as waves and particles to describe quantum scale objects such as light and electrons. Wave-particle duality became one of the fundamental paradoxes embedded in the foundation of quantum mechanics, one of the truly revolutionary ideas of the 20th century. Current educational studies are searching for ways to illuminate for novices how the photon model succeeds where the classical model fails. First, a dance performance was designed to address these learning goals. Subjects were exposed to the dance (N=239), PowerPoint (N=45) or nothing (N=183) and then tested for their understanding of the photoelectric effect. While both treatments fostered significantly higher scores than the control (M=2.94/5), a Fishers LSD test showed that participants who saw the dance (M=4.36) did significantly better than participants who saw the PowerPoint (M=3.91), F(2, 462)=100.147 p=.036. In a second experiment, pre/post-tests were administered to 166 participants who viewed a dance lecture on gravitational waves. Mean scores improved significantly after exposure to the dance lecture. Viewers achieved an average gain of <g>D =0.51, which is high compared to the values reported by Hake in traditional physics courses. The results from both experiments strongly suggest that the use of dance in teaching physics can increase physics teaching effectiveness beyond that of traditional methods such as PowerPoint. This thesis also explores the history of the photoelectric effect. In the dance performance, as in most physics classes, we approach the physics in an ahistorical manner and try to convey our current understanding of the underlying physics. However, the historical path towards understanding the photoelectric effect is a complex one. We trace how advances in theory and novel experiments shaped our understanding of this fundamental effect.
Extent: 91 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Physics, 1936-2016

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