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Blogging in the Physics Classroom Gintaras K. Duda & Katherine Garrett
The “Hidden Curriculum” • We’d like our students to leave “liking” physics. • But it goes beyond this! • To use a JITT phrase, we want students to see what physics is “good-for”
What do Students Learn in Introductory Physics? • What students do well: • Memorize formulae • Learn problem solving techniques which they regurgitate on exams • Solve simple problems which have limited applicability in the real world • What they don’t get: • A richer understanding of physics.
From the MPEX Survey • MPEX1 survey probes “student attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about physics” • ``In all cases, the result of instruction on the overall survey was an increase in unfavorable responses and a decrease in favorable responses ... Thus instruction produced an average deterioration rather than an improvement of student expectations." 1E. Redish, J. Saul, and R. Steinberg, “Student expectations in introductory physics," Am. J. Phys. 66, 212-224 (1998).
Attitude II Survey • Zeilik et al.: devised an active-learning approach to introductory astronomy at University of New Mexico • Found “little change over each semester in students’ mildly positive incoming attitudes about astronomy and science.”
The CLASS1 Survey • A relatively new instrument designed to measure student attitudes in introductory physics courses over a wide range of categories such as personal interest, real world connections and sense making • They found: “… most teaching practices cause substantial drops in student scores” 1W. Adams et al., ``New instrument for measuring student beliefs about physics and learning physics: The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey," Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 2, 010101 (2006).
Is Physics Unique? • Other disciplines have begun worrying about student attitudes • CLASS instrument was modified and used in an intro chemistry course: • ``results indicated that shifts after instruction were similar to, if not worse than, in physics in moving in the unfavorable direction“ • UNIVERSAL PROBLEM!
The Problem • Students come out of introductory physics courses less interested in the subject than when they started. • Students see physics as a random assortment of facts and equations. • Students have only a vague idea how the physics they learn relates to the world around them. • Students don’t come away understanding how physics is used in the real world or how it’s practiced as a science.
Why Worry about Attitude? • Educational research has shown learning is intrinsically linked with student attitude and expectations. • See for example: • A. Schoenfeld • T. Koballa and F. Crawley
The Solution? • A course blog for introductory physics at Creighton University. • The blog would: • Give real world examples of physics • Relate the classroom to the outside world • Show how physics principles relate to other disciplines • Show what’s interesting about physics
Why a Blog? • New technology which appeals to students • Ferdig and Trammel have some good stuff to say • Using blogs in a different educational setting, Brownstein and Klein report • Blogs appear to be a powerful tool to help begin addressing the “hidden curriculum”
Our Question • Can a course blog in a general physics class in which real world examples of physics are provided to students stop or at least ameliorate the deterioration in attitude after instruction as measured by the MPEX, CLASS, and Attitude II instruments?
Why Blogger? It’s free and easy to use. No campus support issues. www.blogger.com
Student comments were collected by using haloscan. Free and superior to blogger’s comments.
A typical Blog Post Students learn about how friction works in the real-world by reading about how Geckos scale walls. Microscopic attraction!
Did the Blog Work? • 26 question Likert-scale attitudinal survey • Modified version of Zeilik’s Attitude II survey • Pre and post testing • Examines: • Attitude toward physics • Cognitive competence and confidence • Perception of difficulty • Value of physics to students’ lives (referred to as “reality link” questions)
“Reality Link” questions • Some examples: • Physics is irrelevant to my life • What I learn in physics this semester will not be useful in my career • Physics is not useful in my everyday life • I will (or do) look at the world differently after taking this class
Breakdown of Semesters Semester Section Number of Students Participated in Blog Study Fall 2005 A 31 yes B 27 yes C 32 no (control group) D 24 no (control group) Spring 2006 A 36 yes B 35 yes C 33 yes D 25 yes Fall 2006 A 33 yes B 34 yes C 30 yes D 28 yes Spring 2007 A 33 yes
Spring 2006 Results Results from ``reality-link" questions for the attitudinal survey. Based on a samples-dependent t-test. The difference between the blog and non-blog reading groups was not-statistically significant for the pre-test but statistically significant with p < 0.001 for the post-test. Scores have been normalized so that 50% represents a neutral response on the Likert-style attitudinal survey.
Conclusions • A blog seemed to be a powerful way to reach students and address the “hidden curriculum” • Students responded positively • Learned how physics applies in the real-world • For many their favorite component of the course • Students who read and posted to the blog maintained their initially positive attitudes • Paper to AJP!
What’s Next • Blogging can affect attitude • Need to show the effect on student learning • This is where we need help!
Ideas • Standard assessment exams are given in general physics • weak correlation with attitude • gain may correlate better • Link blog to exam questions? • New assessment instrument for “reality link” concepts?
Sample Student Comments • “I am a very big fan of baseball. So, I went to the website about the physics of baseballs, and the line “why do bats break” caught my attention. I found out that the force that can act on a bat are in the range of 6,000-10,000lbs and happened in the time span of 1/1000 of a second. Because of this great force, lots of vibrations are produced, and some bats break. Also, this is the reason why in a major league baseball game a ball is only used for 4-5 pitches! I knew that they changed balls a lot, but I never knew why. It’s amazing that so many things have to due with physics!” • General Physics Student #1 | 09.20.05 - 8:20 pm
“With the rise of technological advancements, I guess that I just assumed that functions by a shower head and gas nozzle were simply based in some sort of computerized mechanisms. I never really stopped to actually think about it- I guess I simply took these simple pleasures for granted. Once again, the weekly posted blog has made me examine the functions of everyday life more closely and ask "why?" For me, these blogs have provided concrete examples of the physics that surrounds me...instead of it just being a subject represented by some abstract equations.” • General Physics Student #2 | 11.06.05 - 12:14 am
Data Analysis • Because of the difficulty in interpreting 5-pt Likert scale data we performed two analyses: 1) group the value or “reality-link” questions and perform a dependent samples t-test (as interval data) 2) use an agree-disagree binomial analysis (treating our data as ordinal data)
Agree-Disagree Plots • Introduced by Redish et al. in their MPEX paper - called “Redish” plots Change from pre to post must be > 2σ to be considered significant (at 5% probability level)