David Webb

Headshot of David Webb

Sr. Lecturer w/SOE Emeritus
Office: 205 Physics Building
Phone: (530) 752-1500
Fax: +1 (530) 752-4717
Email: djwebb@ucdavis.edu

Personal Professional Website: http://webb.physics.ucdavis.edu

Research Interests:

I have 20 years of experience in condensed matter research, mostly on magnetism and superconductivity. However, several years ago I changed my research focus to education research (and my job title to Senior Lecturer to reflect the change in research focus). My research interests in education are very broad but the actual research that I choose to work on is always quite practical. Since 2005, or so, I have been involved in: i) measurements of the affects on the UC Davis bioscience students of our highly interactive introductory physics classes (Physics 7A, 7B, and 7C). We call our courses CLASP (for Collaborative Learning through Active Sense-making in Physics) because they always ask the students to make their own sense of the physical ideas that we would like them to understand and to be prepared to argue for their point of view. Wendell Potter and I have used various academic quality measurements to compare students who took these courses with students who took different intro-physics courses. We have found that both MCAT scores and upper division GPA are (statistically) significantly higher for students taking the Physics 7A, 7B, 7C series. ii) measurements of teaching styles of our graduate TAs. In teaching a CLASP course, our graduate TAs must learn to allow their students to work toward their own understanding and guide them when necessary. This is so different from the kind of teaching that most graduate TAs have experienced that we have developed a class for them to take to learn about learning and teaching. I have taught this class on teaching and learning since 2006. Cassandra Paul and Emily West have used a computer logging program (the RIOT) to categorize the teaching styles of our graduate TAs and examine correlations between students learning and TA actions. Most teachers will not be surprised to find that the only TAs whose students do significantly worse in the class (after controlling for other factors such as student GPA) are the TAs who spend very little time listening to their students and/or very little time helping the students when they encounter problems. iii) development of the CLASP idea (see above) for our introductory physics series for engineering and physical science majors. Experiments in our Physics 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D series of courses show that the CLASP ideas can be carried into this series as long as discussions of conceptual ideas is kept separate (in time) from the complicated algebra necessary for working out quantitative answers/predictions. iv) student motivation and epistemology (roughly, their understanding of what it means to “learn” something and of how to learn) may determine much of their success in any course. We have worked on several ways of affecting the students in a positive way. In various projects we are working on: i) offering the students more autonomy in choosing what to work on, ii) recruiting students to do some of the teaching in the class that they are taking, iii) recruiting students to take CLASP courses early in their academic careers.

Research Areas

Career History

  • Ph.D., University of Maryland, 1983
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Maryland, 1983-1984
  • Research Associate, Stanford University, 1984-1987
  • Assistant Professor, University of California, Davis, 1987-1994
  • Visiting Associate, California Institute of Technology, 1993
  • Associate Professor, University of California, Davis, 1994-2007
  • Senior Lecturer w/SOE, University of California, Davis, 2007-present


  • James G. Boswell Scholar, 1973-77