Research Interests

Dissemination and Sustainability of Teaching Innovation

Physics Education Researchers have spent decades developing instructional techniques that they’ve shown to improve student learning however most university science courses are still taught with traditional methods.  I tackled questions that my field has acknowledged as important but hasn’t investigated in detail, perhaps because of the “messy” contextual differences between secondary sites.  For example:

  • How can secondary sites adapt reforms to their unique context without compromising the intended benefit of reform?
  • What aspects of proven educational reforms are essential for success at secondary sites?
  • What are characteristics of sustainable and scaleable reforms?

Since theoretical frameworks for answering these questions are not well established in physics, I familiarized myself with Everett Roger’s seminal work on diffusion of innovations [2003], organizational leadership theories, Kotter’s Change Model and other literature surrounding change management.

During my graduate work, it seemed that the physical prescence of a reformed classroom helped ensure sustainability and spread of active pedagogies in the case of SCALE-UP.  Currently, I’m working on a project to look at the sustainability of PhysTEC physics teacher preparation programs, especially how they navigate financial transistions once funding ends.  This project should lead to important insights about how to plan for sustainability at the beginning for ambitious, personnel heavy projects.

Active Learning and Studio Instruction

While my graduate research used SCALE-UP as a case study to examine the diffusion of research based teaching strategies instead of directly investigating the impact of Studio on student learning, I am well versed in the literature surrounding active learning, collaborative learning and learning space design.  I am interested in the interplay between active pedagogies and the physical learning environment.  I would also like to investigate the sustainability of active learning techniques in traditional classroom spaces.

Underrepresented Groups in Physics

In the summer of 2009, National Science Foundations’s Research Experience for Undergraduates was my first formal exposure to Physics Education Research.  I worked with Dr. Kenneth Heller at the University of Minnesota to investigate the “Gender Gap in Introductory Physics Courses” and analyzed over a decade of quantitative data to isolate background, attitude and course performance factors that contribute to female students underperforming on concept tests including the “Force Concept Inventory”.  This sparked my interest in how different teaching strategies impact underrepresented groups.  Initially, for my dissertation, I wanted to investigate how SCALE-UP cut failure rates for African Americans and females by a factor of 4 and 5 respectively.  After some difficulties using video to capture the complex interactions of a studio classroom during a normal session, I decided to switch gears to my other project.  However, this is a question that still interests me and at the University of Auckland, I plan to revisit these questions and see how this approach affects female and Maori and Pacific students.  I have had conversations with colleagues in the School of Engineering and Performing Arts about collaborating on a project that uses the framework of Threshold Concepts to understand how the studio format might help students from underrepresented groups “see” themselves in physics.

I proposed miniature  research projects to investigate the participation of women in physics and funded by American Physical Society’s Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF), I was able to visit Miranda House College in Delhi, India during the summer 2011. I worked with Dr. Pratihba Jolly and Dr. Bill Schmidt (at Meredith College, Raleigh, NC) to use verbal data analysis techniques to do a “Cross-Cultural Comparison of Female Undergraduates Aspirations for Scientific Study and Careers”.  I later got another APS fellowship to work with Reva Garg at the University of Brasilia to investigate similar questions in Brazil.

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Me with Dr. Reva Garg in the Physics Education Room at the University of Brasilia

Selected Publications


Knaub, A., Foote, K., Henderson, C., Dancy, M. & Beichner, R. Get a Room: The Role of Classroom Space in Sustained Implementation of Studio Style Instruction, International Journal of STEM Education.

Foote, K.Curriculum Development in Study-style University Physics and Implications for Dissemination of Research-Based Reforms.  Physical Review Special Topics- Physics Education Research.

Foote, K., Knaub, A., Henderson, C., Dancy, M. and Beichner, R.. Enabling and challenging factors in institutional reform:The case of SCALE-UP.  Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 12, 010103 – Published 4 February 2016

Foote, K., Nuemeyer, X., Henderson, C., Dancy, M. & Beichner, R.. Diffusion of Research-Based Instructional Strategies:The Case of SCALE-UP, International Journal of STEM Education, (November 2014).

Foote, K.. Factors Underlying the Adoption and Adaptation of a University Physics Reform over Three Generations of Implementation, The Electronic Journal of Science Education, Vol. 18, No. 3 (2014).

Foote, K., Garg, R.. Female Undergraduates: Aspirations for Scientific Study and Careers: Cross-Cultural Comparison, Revista Brasileira de Ensino de Fsica, (2014).

Gaffney, J., Richards, E., Foote, K., & Beichner, R.. Using charge distributions to ‘immerse’ your classroom in an electric field, The Physics Teacher, April 2013.

Conference Papers

Foote, K., Nuemeyer, X., Henderson, C., Dancy, M. & Beichner, R.. SCALE-UP Implementation and Intra-Institutional Dissemination: A Case Study of Two Institutions. In 2014 Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings. Physics Education Research Topical Group & American Association of Physics Teachers.

Nuemeyer, X., Foote, K., Henderson, C., Dancy, M. & Beichner, R. (2014, June). Examining the diffusion of research-based instructional strategies using social network analysis: A case-study of SCALE-UP. American Society of Engineering Education, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Foote, K. & Garg, R. (2014, August). A cross-cultural comparison of female undergraduates aspirations for scientific study and careers. IUPAP international conference on women in physics, Waterloo, Canada.