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Abstract Title: Developing expertlike epistemologies about physics empirical discovery using virtual reality
Abstract: The process and role of developing new scientific models experimentally is a cornerstone of physics -- and arguably an important learning objective of laboratory courses -- but research in physics education suggests that most current lab curricula do not effectively meet this objective. Many instructional practices leave students believing that in-class experiments exist to supplement conceptual learning and that the sole purpose of real-world experiments is to test theories. As a result, many students frame lab work as an exercise in knowledge confirmation, and expect that all physics that appears in the labs can be found with a Google search. This paper describes an instructional intervention using virtual reality to integrate the process of authentic scientific discovery into the lab curriculum. We developed labs in which students explore and develop mathematical models for unknown force laws between new kinds of particles that we invented. We find that this intervention produced significant shifts in students' epistemologies about experimental physics toward being more expertlike --  specifically regarding the central role experimentation plays for research physicists in making new discoveries and developing theories, and the role of laboratory experiments in teaching a nuanced and unique scientific way of knowing.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session 1 Room A
Poster Number: 1A-17
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Jared P Canright
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
Phone: 5756260024
and Co-Presenter(s)
Suzanne White Brahmia, University of Washington, brahmia -at- uw.edu