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PERC 2015 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Research methodologies in Laboratory Contexts
Abstract: Research in laboratory contexts is less common than research in classroom contexts, but just as important.  Labs are where students learn vital experimentation, metacognitive, and problem-posing skills; where they try on identities as research scientists, and interact with scientific equipment.  The four projects in this session investigate student learning in laboratory contexts with wildly differing research questions and methodologies.  While some projects take the development of experimentation and bench skills as core to their research, others merely use labs as a context for broader questions of student development.  Each research team will briefly present their project to situate an interactive discussion of methods and goals of research in laboratory settings.
Abstract Type: Parallel session: Talk Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Eleanor C. Sayre
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

Symposium Specific Information

Moderator: Eleanor C Sayre, Kansas State University, esayre@gmail.com
Presentation 1 Title: Research Methodologies for Studying Troubleshooting, Metacognition, and Modeling in Junior-Level Electronics Courses
Presentation 1 Authors: Dimitri R. Dounas-Frazer (Dimitri.DounasFrazer@colorado.edu), Kevin L. Van De Bogart, Noah D. Finkelstein, MacKenzie R. Stetzer,  Heather J. Lewandowski
Presentation 1 Abstract: Studying student learning in upper-division instructional laboratory settings requires tailoring research methodologies to the unique learning environments characteristic of these courses. As an example, we present our approach to a cross-institutional study of student troubleshooting in junior-level electronics courses. In this study, we conducted think-aloud interviews in which pairs of students were tasked with diagnosing and repairing a malfunctioning circuit. The resulting video data were examined to probe the relationship between students' troubleshooting strategies, metacognitive behaviors, and use of mathematical and conceptual models. In this session, we discuss our research methodology, paying particular attention to both preservation of ecological validity during data collection and application of existing theoretical frameworks to video data analyses. We further describe our application of, and preliminary results from, these methodologies to the specific context of troubleshooting as part of a broader effort to develop new frameworks for understanding problem solving in experimental physics settings.

*This work has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. DUE-1245313, DUE-1323426, DUE-1323101, DUE-1245313, and DUE-0962805.
Presentation 2 Title: Modeling-Based Reasoning in the Upper-Division Physics Laboratory: Framework and Initial Results
Presentation 2 Authors: Benjamin M. Zwickl (bmzsps@rit.edu),  Dehui Hu,  Noah Finkelstein and H. J. Lewandowski
Presentation 2 Abstract: We review and extend existing frameworks on modeling to develop a new framework that describes model-based reasoning in upper-division physics labs. Constructing and using models are core scientific practices that have gained significant attention within K-12 and higher education. A significant feature of the new framework is that measurement tools (in addition to the physical system being studied) are subjected to the process of modeling. We designed a short laboratory activity and conducted think-aloud interviews with individual students to refine the framework and demonstrate its utility by identifying modeling-based reasoning in the laboratory.  When applied to the think-aloud interviews, the framework captures and differentiates students' model-based reasoning and helps identify areas of future research. A modeling perspective reframes many of the seemingly arbitrary technical details of measurement tools and apparatus as an opportunity for authentic and engaging scientific sense-making.
Presentation 3 Title: Advanced Lab as a Community of Practice
Presentation 3 Authors: Paul W Irving (pwirving@gmail.com), Eleanor C Sayre
Presentation 3 Abstract: We use the theory of Communities of Practice and the concept of Accountable Disciplinary Knowledge to describe how a learning community develops in the context of an upper-division physics laboratory course.   The change in accountable disciplinary knowledge motivates students' enculturation into a community of practice. The enculturation process is facilitated by four specific structural features of the course and supported by a primary instructional choice.  We don't focus on the physics that students learn; rather we focus on how their interactions with each other and the equipment show classroom community development. We support our claims with video-based observations of laboratory classroom interactions and individual, semistructured interviews with students about their laboratory experiences and physics identity.
Presentation 4 Title: Emergent studies of students engaged in sense-making labwork
Presentation 4 Authors: Corey Ptak (cxpsbi@rit.edu), Mary Bridget Kustusch, Eleanor C. Sayre, Scott V. Franklin
Presentation 4 Abstract: In the summer of 2014, twenty first-generation and/or deaf/hard-of-hearing incoming STEM majors came to RIT to take part in a two-week experience designed to foster reflective, metacognitive practice around the design of experiments to investigate climate change. The entire experience -- small group scientific activities and large group reflective discussions -- was videotaped and analyzed with an emergent coding framework. From the analysis came a number of interesting research questions. On the first full day of the program, the students collaboratively developed a sign for the word ``metacognition'' for which there is not a sign in American Sign Language. Three aspects of the ensuing discussion stood out: (1) how the instructor communicated expectations about decision making; (2) how the instructor promoted student-driven decision making rather than instructor-driven policy; and (3) one student's shifts in decision making behavior. Subsequent days raised the issue of student views on expertise, what traits they attributed to novices and experts, and how they saw themselves transitioning from novice to expert. In this presentation, we discuss the research approach taken to studying a rich laboratory-based environment that contained many elements foreign to the researchers (e.g. deaf/hard-of-hearing culture). We conclude by discussing implications of this research for activity-based physics instruction.