Modeling Oscillating Systems: Physics Component

Teaching Strategies

Most of the lessons in this module reflect the teaching strategies engaged in by the authors. Specifically, the authors are interested in conceptual learning and techniques which produce conceptual change. Students who are successful in a traditional physics class still may possess naÔve physics conceptions. This module incorporates several teaching strategies and types of assessment which have been used by various programs to improve and assess student conceptual learning.

The initial exploration activity illustrates the different approach taken in this module.Each team of students is encouraged to explore a different system and then the students share the results of their investigation with the class.This technique is known as white-boarding in some projects, but students could use a variety of media to share.The key feature of this strategy is the peer interaction component.Students are encouraged to discuss their results with each other.The teacher acts as moderator and guide, focusing the discussion when necessary but not serving as a direct source of information.

During the laboratory investigations, the teacher should provide minimal direction. Rather, the investigations should be student driven. Given the basic tasks to be performed and assuming the students have sufficient experimental procedure prior to this point, they should be able to design and conduct these simple experiments without a step-by-step set of directions.

The authors believe that students learn best from models they build themselves rather than using pre-built models.Prior to this unit the students will have built several models to illustrate simple kinematics concepts as well as a basic force model and some applications of force models.By the time they reach this unit, they should be quite adept at identifying the new elements needed in the model and the output desired.

Another strategy used by one of the authors is to have the students develop a rubric. Given the task of determining the factors which influence the period of a pendulum and then presenting their findings to the class, the students developed a rubric that the class and teacher could use. The rubric was used to evaluate both the rigor of their investigation and the quality of their presentation. As they performed the experiment and prepared their presentations with the rubric in front of them, the students were better able to meet the requirements of the task.

Another strategy that teachers might use during this module to evaluate student conceptual understanding is based on Mazurís Peer Instruction model. While Mazur primarily uses the method in lecture to address 3 or 4 concepts, one author has used a similar approach to check student understanding. After the initial discussions about oscillatory motion and Hookeís Law, on subsequent class days, the instructor may place a multiple-choice question designed to test conceptual understanding on the overhead. Students hold up cards with their choice of the correct answer and the instructor quickly assesses the percentage of the class which has the right answer. If that number is above 80%, the instructor verifies the correct answer and has a student explain the reasoning to the class so the other 20% know why they are wrong. If the number is below %40 the instructor explains the correct answer and illustrates the concept with further examples. Between 40 and 80%, the students engage in peer instruction, discussing with their seat- mates the problem and the correct choice. After a suitable time, the instructor asks the students to hold up their cards again with their revised choice of an answer. This is followed by a short class discussion and then the students are asked a related question. In the authorís opinion, this technique was a major contributing factor to student success on end-of-course exams.

Documented Student Preconceptions

As mentioned above and in other places within this module a major concern is the preconceptions which students bring to the classroom and whether or not a particular lesson or unit is successful in guiding students to a content appropriate way of thinking about the concepts. The design of this module and the teaching strategies listed above reflect the authorsí current understanding of potentially successful strategies for revealing student preconceptions and addressing them. Here is a list of some of the student preconceptions which may be addressed by this module. Teachers should keep these conceptual understandings in mind when they design assessments. At the beginning of each section, the source of the list is identified. Full references can be found in the references and resources section.

Project Galileo - NSF 1998 Faculty Enhancement Conference

Teaching Introductory Physics, Conservation Laws First

Documented Student Difficulties

C3P Student Preconceptions

Science Preconceptions - Operation Physics


Targeting Studentsí Science Misconceptions