Dr. Phillips is an Associate Professor of Physics at LMU. His research has focused on physics education, specifically cognitive and metacognitive factors that correlate with conceptual learning among students and teachers. As part of this research, he has published multiple articles in peer-reviewed journals and lead NSF-funded projects as a Co-PI on Thinking In Physics
(TIP) and PI on Problem-solving Examples with Narration for Students
(PENS). Each of these projects developed curricular materials that addressed specific needs among at-risk students who were enrolled in university-level courses.
Both projects are focused on measuring and developing fundamental skills for success in STEM courses- scientific reasoning and problem solving. In TIP, Prof. Phillips designed and studied a suite of activities that promote cognitive development among college students who previously demonstrated weak scientific reasoning skills. When TIP activities were implemented with interactive, student-centered pedagogy, improvements in student scientific thinking and conceptual understanding were observed. Instructors at several institutions have implemented TIP activities and results have been widely disseminated in the physics education community, including publications in American Journal of Physics, Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, AIP Conference Proceedings, and The Physics Teacher.
Dr. Phillips has lead the interdisciplinary PENS project team in its effort to craft instructional materials that help students in chemistry, mathematics and physics become better problem solvers. By using cutting-edge technology (smartpens and tablets), students record and analyze think-alouds where they verbalize their thought process as they solve problems. The focus on the recording and subsequent analysis is how students self-regulate, that is recognize and correct errors as they produce a solution. In addition to seeing improved student performance on real-world problems and increased motivation on pre-/post-instruction surveys, the project team has also developed measures of problem-solving and problem difficulty. These results and instructional methods have been shared thus far at several professional conferences through presentations and workshops.
Dr. Phillips has studied the impact of various professional development programs and outreach efforts including the highly successful LMU Math and Science Teaching System at urban secondary schools across Los Angeles. He has also examined trends of implementation of research-based instructional methods within the Southern California physics teacher community.
Dr. Phillips active in the local teacher community as he is currently the Past-President of the Southern California section of the American Association of Physics Teachers
(SCAAPT) whose membership consists of over 800 high school, two-year college and four-year college instructors between Fresno and San Diego. He has previously served as the SCAAPT President, Program Chair and Vice-President of Universities. He is also active in the governance at the national level as he serves on the AAPT Council as the representative from Southern California.