Developing and assessing students ability to design experiments in a large enrollment lab class
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Developing and assessing students’ ability to design experiments in a large enrollment lab class. AAPT National Meeting Sacramento, August 2004 Sahana Murthy, Eugenia Etkina, Michael Gentile, Aaron Warren and Alan Van Heuvelen Rutgers University, NJ

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Developing and assessing students ability to design experiments in a large enrollment lab class l.jpg

Developing and assessing students’ ability to design experiments in a large enrollment lab class

AAPT National Meeting Sacramento, August 2004

Sahana Murthy, Eugenia Etkina, Michael Gentile,

Aaron Warren and Alan Van Heuvelen

Rutgers University, NJ

http://paer.rutgers.edu/scientificabilities

Supported in part by NSF Grant DUE #0241078


What are design tasks l.jpg
What are design tasks? experiments in a large enrollment lab class

Investigate new phenomena: Observation experiment

Students design experiments to

Design an experiment to determine if there is a relationship

between pressure and temperature of an unknown substance in a

sealed metal sphere.

Test a hypothesis: Testing experiment

Your friend says that as current flows through a circuit, it is used up

by the elements of the circuit. Design an experiment to test this.

Solve a practical problem: Application experiment

Design experiments to determine the thickness of a strand of your

hair using two independent methods, one of which must involve

ideas about diffraction.


Features of design tasks l.jpg
Features of design tasks experiments in a large enrollment lab class

  • Part of ISLE cycle: Observation, testing or application experiment

  • Divergent thinking-- two independent methods to solve problem

  • Open ended, ill-defined

  • Need to perform additional experiments or informed estimates to solve task

  • Task can involve more than one topic in physics

  • Qualitative and quantitative experiments


Why design tasks scientific abilities l.jpg
Why design tasks: Scientific abilities* experiments in a large enrollment lab class

  • To design a reliable experiment that solves the problem

  • To choose a productive mathematical procedure

  • To suggest multiple experiments to accomplish the desired goals

  • To identify sources of experimental uncertainties

  • To evaluate effect of experimental uncertainties on data

  • To make a judgment about the results

  • To communicate the details of an experimental procedure clearly and completely

* Etkina, E., “Developing and assessing scientific abilities in an introductory physics course”, AAPT Announcer, Vol.33, No.4, P.85 (2004).


Rubrics guidelines and assessment l.jpg
Rubrics: guidelines and assessment experiments in a large enrollment lab class


Example p t relationship l.jpg
Example: P-T relationship experiments in a large enrollment lab class

Design an experiment to determine if there is a relationship

between pressure and temperature of an unknown substance

when the volume is kept constant. Equipment: Sealed hollow

metal sphere, ice, hot plate, thermometer, pressure gauge.

Describe your experimental design. Include how you will measure the pressure and temperature.

Draw a labeled diagram of your experimental set-up.

Mention what the independent and dependent variables are.

List the assumptions you made in your design.

Record your observations. Make a table if necessary.

Analyze your data and find a best-fit function.

What pattern did you find from your observations?

Write a verbal description and a mathematical relationship.

List experimental uncertainties and how you could minimize them. Evaluate how could these affect your data.

Explain how you can use this relationship to predict the value of the lowest temperature possible.


Example dc circuits l.jpg
Example: DC circuits experiments in a large enrollment lab class

Your friend says that as current flows through a circuit, it is

used up by the elements of the circuit. Design an experiment

to test your friend’s hypothesis. Equipment: Battery, wires,

bulbs, ammeter.

Devise and write an outline of your procedure.

Draw a circuit diagram. Use different resistors or light bulbs as your circuit elements.

Devise the mathematical procedure you will use to make your prediction.

List the assumptions that you made.

List experimental uncertainties and how can you minimize them. Evaluate how these could affect the data.

Make a prediction about the current at various points in the circuit.

Perform experiment and record the results in an appropriate format.

Use hypothetico-deducto reasoning with the arguments and evidence for testing your friend’s hypothesis. Is the prediction confirmed?

What is your judgment about the hypothesis?


Example optics l.jpg
Example: Optics experiments in a large enrollment lab class

Design two independent experiments to determine the width

of a strand of your hair. One method must involve ideas of

diffraction. Equipment: Laser pointer, meter stick, holder for

hair, screen.

Devise a procedure and write down an outline.

Draw a labeled diagram of your experiment.

Write the mathematical procedure you will use.

Write how you will measure the physical quantities you need.

Perform the experiment. Record your measurements.

Calculate the thickness based on your procedure and measurements.

What are possible experimental uncertainties? How could you minimize them? Evaluate how these could affect the data.

When finished both experiments, compare the two values for the thickness. What are possible reasons for the difference?


Implementation l.jpg
Implementation experiments in a large enrollment lab class

  • Large enrollment class -- 450 students

  • Lab class accompanies lecture class

  • 20 lab sections, 6 TAs

  • TAs not involved in PER activities

  • Training -- TAs perform mock design tasks

  • Collaboration with lab coordinator

  • One design task per lab

  • Students perform and write report in 3-hour lab


Assessment l.jpg
Assessment experiments in a large enrollment lab class

Authentic Assessment :

  • Decide goals

  • Decide assessment

  • Develop currciculum based on assessment

Mueller J, Authentic Assessment Toolbox http://jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctn.edu/toolbox/

Our laboratories:

Develop scientific abilities

Design tasks with guidelines

Formative assessment, Scoring rubrics


Student writing samples l.jpg
Student writing samples experiments in a large enrollment lab class

Week 3

Week 10


Research and findings l.jpg
Research and findings experiments in a large enrollment lab class

  • 35 students in sample

  • Randomly selected

  • from 4 sections

  • Scored student

  • responses from

  • week 3 (initial) and

  • week 10 (final)

  • Found significant

  • improvement in

  • some scientific

  • abilities


Conclusions l.jpg
Conclusions experiments in a large enrollment lab class

  • Possible to implement and assess open-ended design tasks in large enrollment class

  • Students’ scientific abilities improved

  • Assessment rubrics serve as goals for writing new design tasks

Further Work

  • Students use rubrics for self-assessment

  • Need controlled experiment to test if

  • guidelines in rubrics caused improvement


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