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Active-engagement in large lecture environments. Dedra Demaree , Assistant Prof. of Physics, OSU (Purple slides: SMED PhD student Sissi Li Dark blue slides: Physics Masters thesis Jennifer Roth) May 20, 2011.

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active engagement in large lecture environments

Active-engagement in large lecture environments

Dedra Demaree, Assistant Prof. of Physics, OSU

(Purple slides: SMED PhD student Sissi Li

Dark blue slides: Physics Masters thesis Jennifer Roth)

May 20, 2011

science is social

IntroLit. ReviewMethod Data Analysis Conclusion

Science IS Social
  • Scientists must be capable of forming and defending arguments – SUPPORTING CLAIMS WITH EVIDENCE.
  • The argumentation strategies used in an informal peer discussions assist in development of more formal analytical arguments.
  • Support students to use the opportunity to participate in the following scientific practices:
  • *Discuss, justify, and debate reasoning with peers
  • *Evaluate problem solutions
  • *Interact with physicist (instructor as ‘discourse model’)
  • *Identify themselves as sources of solutions
  • *Comfort to communicate in a public arena
scientific discourse in the classroom

IntroLit. ReviewMethod Data Analysis Conclusion

Scientific Discourse in the Classroom
  • Students can arrive at the correct answer to a problem through the process of peer discussion, even when no student in the group originally knows the correct answer.
  • Peer Discussion (AND active engagement) are NECESSARY but NOT SUFFICIENT for improving students’ conceptual understanding of science. NEED:
    • * Sophisticated Instructor PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) AND teaching orientation
    • *Careful setting of classroom norms, CONSISTANT prompting for students
    • *Well designed activities and curriculum
specific methods employed

IntroLit. ReviewMethod Data Analysis Conclusion

Specific Methods Employed:

Physical arrangement of classroom features.

Expose students to risk-free environment

Encourage students to question (not just ‘ask’!)

Construct identities for students as “sensemakers.”

Ask questions to elicit student ideas -> ASK QUESTIONS YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER TO!

Let students lead class discussions, and answer each other’s questions

Wait between posing question and listening to student reasoning

how does this look in practice
How does this look in practice???
  • Well… IT DEPENDS!!!
    • What are your course goals?
    • What is the content?
    • What are the meta-goals?
    • Which things do you want students to master vs. just be exposed to?
    • How do you want to scaffold and build up skills?
    • What space do you have to work with?
    • What student population and background knowledge?
    • (MIT, Dickinson, NCState, UCDavis…)
  • This is all context dependent! So here’s MY context…
introductory calculus based physics
Introductory calculus-based physics
  • Three term sequence with three 1-hour lectures per week
  • 200 students per lecture section, heavily incorporating active-engagement
research based reform models visited successful supported by data reform at many institutions
Research-based reform models: (Visited successful - supported by data - reform at many institutions)

Curricular model: ISLE (Investigative science learning environment

Pedagogical model: LESS LECTURE AND MORE SCALE-UP (student centered active learning environment for undergraduate programs)

example isle cycle in intro physics induction
Example ISLE cycle in Intro physics: Induction
  • Observe:
    • Watch instructor move a magnet within a coil and see the induced current
    • ASK students what else they’d like to see me do (move it faster, move the coil instead…)
  • Explain/Model:
    • Do NOT explain the phenomenon – but have students brainstorm a quasi-mathematical statement for inducing current
  • Test:
    • Try with different coils, alignments…
  • Refine models then apply: problem solving, generators…
  • Falsification: No induction if flux isn’t changing!
isle based curricular materials
ISLE-based curricular materials
  • ISLE cycles in lecture
  • Studio uses ISLE cycles and activities
  • Homework rubrics
  • Labs with rubrics and write-ups
  • ISLE goals: Building Scientific Abilities Representing information, conducting experiments, thinking divergently, collecting and analyzing data, constructing, modifying and applying relationships and explanations, being able to coordinate these abilities
reform to facilitate learning
Reform to facilitate learning

Students participate in social interactions & make meaning of their experiences in class to build a shared repertoire of knowledge

Engage students in physics practices

Development of a classroom community of practice

normalized FCI gain = 0.40

**roughly same before and after implementation of studio – noticeable jump from pre-ISLE

Student buy in to social learning and develop identities of central members of classroom community?


Set meta-goals and write classroom activities aimed at supporting them

Teacher discusses subtleties of open-ended problem solving through lecture

Teacher models discourse via interacting with groups during PI

  • Teacher models discourse via whole class conversations

Students adapt discourse practices within groups

Are goals met? Refine process and scaffold in new meta-goals

Post-class analysis of researcher observations, and student and teacher dialogue

sample data may 27 2008
Sample data: May 27, 2008
  • Camcorders record audio and visual data in class
  • Data from orange camera (approx 70% of students)
  • Coded group sizes and interaction type

Classroom community can be encouraged during ‘lecture mode’ where students justify reasoning and provide explanations without direct prompting

Can you explain that more?

What is your understanding so far?

The student then explained their reasoning, and a second student immediately understood their viewpoint, and chimed in with a great explanation for the first student. The second student had held the same view a few minutes prior and had just come to understand my explanation and had made sense of it himself using that ‘if then’ reasoning.

In lecture, a student interrupted with a question. Instead of launching into another explanation, teacher asked for his existing knowledge. Teacher is acting in the role of the broker, helping the student practice dialoging in a scientific fashion.

Challenge student expectations to alter classroom norms with open-ended, or multiple answer voting questions:
pi questions to model reasoning and to validate ideas brought up by students
PI Questions to model reasoning and to validate ideas brought up by students

Which of the following explanations were consistent with our observation experiments?

  • The motion is the vector sum of all interactions
  • The force of the hand on the ball is greater than the force of the earth on the ball, therefore the ball doesn’t move
  • The force of the hand on the ball is equal to the force of the earth on the ball, therefore the ball doesn’t move
  • If there is more force in one direction, the object will have a change in motion in that direction
  • Interactions have the ability to cause motion if they are unbalanced
Encourage students to rely on their prior community developed knowledge to address completely new situations

Prompt: “think about it in terms of 211 ideas” (applying mechanics ideas from fall term to the winter term course). Voting Question: An object hangs motionless from a spring. When the object is pulled down, the sum of the elastic potential energy of the spring and the gravitational potential energy of the object of the Earth

1. increase

2. stays the same

3. decreases

Based on Newton’s 2nd law, predict what will happen to the reading of the spring scale when the mass is accelerated upward (a>0), then moves at constant velocity, then is accelerated (a<0) to a stop. JUSTIFY YOUR PREDICTION WITH FORCE DIAGRAMS!!

  • The reading will be the same at all times
  • The reading will increase, stay steady above the ‘at rest’ reading, then decrease back to the ‘at rest’ reading once the object has come to rest
  • The reading will increase, go back to the ‘at rest’ reading then decrease before the object comes to a full stop
  • The reading will decrease, stay steady below the ‘at rest’ reading, then increase back to the ‘at rest’ reading once the object has come to rest
  • The reading will decrease, go back to the ‘at rest’ reading then increase before the object comes to a full stop
how does this play out in the classroom
How does this play out in the classroom?
  • Sometimes students don’t use the tools given
  • Sometimes students don’t see multiple choices
  • BUT – with persistence (and specific prompts/techniques discussed later) – it can work

A rectangular loop is placed in a uniform

magnetic field with the plane of the loop

perpendicular to the direction of the field.

If a current is made to flow through the loop

in the sense shown by the arrows, the field

exerts on the loop:

1. a net force.

2. a net torque.

3. a net force and a net torque.

4. neither a net force nor a net torque.


A rectangular loop is placed in a uniform magnetic field with the plane of the loop perpendicular to the direction of the field. (IGNORE the current in the loop – I just re-used the other diagram) Which of the following will NOT increase the amount of magnetic flux through the loop?

  • Increasing the size of the loop (area)

2. Increasing the strength of the magnetic field

3. Rotating the loop through an angle of 90 degrees

video clip march 1 st 2011 ph213
Video Clip, March 1st, 2011 (PH213)
  • Start: 7:00 Stop: 8:00
  • Start: 10:00 Stop: 13:00
  • What do you notice?
    • What YOU notice (just as with our students) will depend on what you are TRAINED to notice and what your ‘orientation’ toward the task is!!!
video clip oct 24 2008
Video Clip, Oct 24, 2008
  • Testing experiment: penny on track – what happens to the penny when the cart hits the bumper? ASK FOR PREDICTION BASED ON EXPLANATIONS WITH AN IF/THEN STATEMENT (Also do with the doll) – students should have an If/Then statement: If a force is required to change the motion of the object, then the penny will continue moving forward if no forces act on it (the cart is hit, not the penny)

HOW ON TASK DO WE NEED OUR STUDENTS TO BE??A car goes around an upward curve (like a large speed bump) while maintaining a constant speed. Which of the following is an accurate representation of the VERTICAL forces on the car? (Pay attention to the length of the vectors) g = ground, e = earth, c = car

  • B. C.







standard assessments
Standard Assessments
  • FCI (Force Concept Inventory)
  • CSEM (Conceptual survey in electricity and magnetism)

ACCEPTED that active

engagement is a

necessary but not

sufficient for improving

student learning gains!!

moving further at osu studio room
Moving further at OSU: Studio room
  • “Modified” SCALE-UP (hours are 2/2/2)
  • Short activities in lecture, medium in studio, long in lab – all tie together
what about the csem
What about the CSEM?
  • This test is a bit harder to see change on…
  • Red is the only group to have had 213 in the studio environment!
what about traditional problem solving
What about traditional problem solving?
  • (49 points) Box 1 (which starts at rest) is pushed along the ceiling, by a force acting from under it at an angle of θ=30 degrees with the ceiling. After a distance of 75 cm, it hits and sticks to Box 2. The force stops acting right before the hit. The two boxes then fall to the floor, still stuck together. See the figure. The height of the ceiling is 3m; the coefficient of friction between the box and the ceiling is μ=0.2; the mass of Box 1 is 0.5kg, and the mass of Box 2 is 2kg. The magnitude of the applied force is 20N.
    • (15 points) Determine the work done on Box 1 by: the applied force, friction, gravity, and the normal force, up to the moment it hits Box 2.
    • (12 points) With what speed does the Box 1 hit Box 2, and with what speed do they move immediately afterwards? Do these results make sense? Explain briefly.
    • (10 points) What fraction of the kinetic energy is converted to other forms of energy during the collision (fractional energy loss is on your equation sheet)? What is the primary reason for this? Discuss your result briefly.
    • (12 points) How far (horizontally) from the point of collision do the stuck-together boxes land? With what velocity do they hit the floor?
all measures show success
All measures show success:
  • PLUS: Lower drop-out and higher success/retention of women and minorities
  • Is all this success surprising?? NO, This is to be expected:
  • We’re just replicating results seen at places with successful reform
    • North Carolina (SCALE-UP)
    • MIT (blend)
    • Rutgers (ISLE)
  • BUT what about all the “OTHER” baggage that needs to be carried along to make this work???.....
jennifer s summary what can i do to foster meaningful scientific discussions in my classroom

Intro Lit. Review Method Data Analysis Conclusion

(Jennifer’s summary) What can I do to foster meaningful scientific discussions in my classroom?
  • Ask students to sit near one another.
  • Select activities that are well-suited to peer discussion.
  • Consistently ask students to talk with their neighbors. (Perhaps ask them to “convince” neighbors)
  • Walk around room, interact with groups during discussion time.
  • Listen to student reasoning during whole-class discussions.
my take home it matters
My ‘take-home’: It matters…
  • HOW you model discourse (insert my rant about ‘Socratic Dialogue’ here)
  • HOW you value student input and class community
  • ATTENDING to student ‘comfort’/’frustration’
  • WHAT issues attend to in the classroom (and what you let drop)
  • HOW you scaffold their learning opportunities
  • TEACHING students to attend to observations and distinguishing them from explanations
  • TEACHING students to distinguish between a hypothesis and a prediction
  • EXPLICITLY setting up, demonstrating, and enforcing norms
  • HOW you ask questions and LETTING students answer!
bibliography for jen s lit review

IntroLit. Review Method Data Analysis Conclusion

Bibliography for Jen’s lit review

[1] American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science for All Americans, (1990), <>. 

[2] J. Osborne, Arguing to Learn in Science: The Role of Collaborative, Critical Discourse, Science 328, 463 (2010).

[3] R. A. Duschl, Quality Argumentation and Epistemic Criteria, in Argumentation in Science Education (Springer, 2008).

[4] National Research Council, National Science Educations Standards, (1996), <>.

[5] P. Heller, R. Keith, and S. Anderson, Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. Part 1: Group versus individual problem solving, Am. J. Phys. 60(7), 627 (1992).

[6] R. R. Hake, Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses, Am. J. Phys. 66(1), 64 (1998).

[7] E. K. Henriksen, C. Angell, The role of ‘talking physics’ in an undergraduate physics class using an electronic audience response system, Phys. Ed. 45(3), 279 (2010).

[8] M. K. Smith, W. B. Wood, W. K. Adams, C. Wieman, J. K. Knight, N. Guild, T. T. Su, Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance on In-Class Concept Questions, Science 323, 122 (2009).

[9] K. M. Andre, Cooperative Learning: An Inside Story, Phys. Teach. 37, 356 (1999).

[10] P. H. Scott, E. R. Mortimer, O. G. Aguiar, The Tension Between Authoritative and Dialogic Discourse: A Fundamental Characteristic of Meaning Making Interactions in High School Science Lessons, Sci. Educ. 90(4), 605 (2006).

[11] P. Heller, M. Hollabaugh, Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. Part 2: Designing problems and structuring groups, Am. J. Phys. 60(7), 637 (1992). 

[12]C. H. Crouch, J. Watkins, A. P. Fagen, E. Mazur, Peer Instruction: Engaging Students One-on-One, All at Once, Reviews in Physics Education Research 1, 1 (2007).

[13]C. S. Kalman, M. Milner-Bolotin, T. Antimirova, Comparison of the effectiveness of collaborative groups and peer instruction in a large introductory physics course for science majors, Can. J. Phys. 88, 325 (2010).

[14]S. J. Pollock, N. D. Finkelstein, Sustaining educational reforms in introductory physics, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 4, 010110 (2008).

[15]K. S. Meyer, The Integration of Interactive Activities into Lecture in Upper Division Physics Theory Courses, Masters Project Report, Oregon State University, 1998.

[16]M. E. Pieczura, Dare to Disagree as Scientists, Science and Children, 25 (2009).

[17]E. H. van Zee, J. Minstrell, Reflective discourse: developing shared understandings in a physics classroom, Int. J. Sci. Educ. 19(2), 209 (1997).

[18]E. Schiller, J. Joseph, A framework for facilitating equitable discourse in science classrooms, Science Scope, 57 (2010).

[19]C. Turpen, N. D. Finkelstein, Not all interactive enegagement is the same: Variations in physics professors’ implementation of Peer Instruction, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 020101 (2009).

[20]J. A. Bianchini, Where Knowledge Construction, Equity, and Context Intersect: Student Learning of Science in Small Groups, J. Res. Sci. Teach. 34(10), 1039 (1997).

[21]S. L. Li, D. Demaree, Studying the Effectiveness of Lecture Hall Design on Group Interactions, presented at AAPT Winter 2009 Meeting, Chicago IL.