Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

Using lab notebooks to examine students’ engagement in modeling in an upper-division electronics lab course

TitleUsing lab notebooks to examine students’ engagement in modeling in an upper-division electronics lab course
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsStanley, JT, Su, W, Lewandowski, HJ
JournalPhysical Review Physics Education Research
Date Published2017-11

We demonstrate how students’ use of modeling can be examined and assessed using student notebooks collected from an upper-division electronics lab course. The use of models is a ubiquitous practice in undergraduate physics education, but the process of constructing, testing, and refining these models is much less common. We focus our attention on a lab course that has been transformed to engage students in this modeling process during lab activities. The design of the lab activities was guided by a framework that captures the different components of model-based reasoning, called the Modeling Framework for Experimental Physics. We demonstrate how this framework can be used to assess students’ written work and to identify how students’ model-based reasoning differed from activity to activity. Broadly speaking, we were able to identify the different steps of students’ model-based reasoning and assess the completeness of their reasoning. Varying degrees of scaffolding present across the activities had an impact on how thoroughly students would engage in the full modeling process, with more scaffolded activities resulting in more thorough engagement with the process. Finally, we identified that the step in the process with which students had the most difficulty was the comparison between their interpreted data and their model prediction. Students did not use sufficiently sophisticated criteria in evaluating such comparisons, which had the effect of halting the modeling process. This may indicate that in order to engage students further in using model-based reasoning during lab activities, the instructor needs to provide further scaffolding for how students make these types of experimental comparisons. This is an important design consideration for other such courses attempting to incorporate modeling as a learning goal.

Short TitlePhys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res.