Physics Education Research: Helping Students Become Better Scientists

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Physics Education Research (PER) is a blossoming subfield of physics that is changing the way students become physicists. Our research involves the transformation of the lab portion of a first-year enriched physics course through the implementation of “invention activities:” discovery-learning activities that ask students to “invent” a solution to a problem before being taught the expert solution. The combination of invention activities and tell-and-practice methods has been shown to lead to better student learning and performance on transfer tasks, as compared to tell-and-practice methods alone (Roll, Aleven & Koedinger, 2009; Schwartz & Martin, 2004). In addition, scaffolding invention activities using domain-independent metacognitive prompts can support students through the invention process, leading them to attend to more features of the domain and reason at a deeper level (Roll, Holmes, Day & Bonn; submitted). Our current study further investigates this theory by expanding the treatment across a four-month term and using faded levels of scaffolding. Using interactive learning environments (ILE), five inventions in the domains of statistics and data-analysis were given to students and various assessments were administered to measure performance on domain-level knowledge and “invention skills.” I will present preliminary results from this and previous studies.