# Using Mini-Investigations to Encourage Students to Think and to Reason Based on Evidence Alex Azima Lansing Community College

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Using Mini-Investigations to Encourage Students to Think and to Reason Based on Evidence Alex Azima Lansing Community College alex@lcc.edu

The Problem: Current StateDesired State Students Memorize & Regurgitate Without Thinking About or Questioning Their Ideas Students Rely on Evidence to Make Scientific Arguments (They Analyze Data & Evaluate & Report Results)

A Possible Solution: Require several Mini-Investigations to encourage thinking and reasoning throughout the course, in addition to formal labs.

Features of Mini- Investigations:  Short, Open-Ended Problems  Require Thinking & Planning for Analysis  Usually Require Experimenting  Require Data Analysis  Require Evaluation & Synthesis of Results  Require Reporting of Results  Require Critique of Results & Reports by Instructor & by Peers

Two Goals:  More Effective Planning & Execution of Investigations by Students  More Effective, Evidence-Based Arguments & Presentations

Some Examples: Motion Down an Incline Motion Down an Incline With an Initial Velocity Mass and Motion Down an Incline Motion on a Level Surface With an Elastic Cord Motion of a Bouncing Ball Motion With Friction

Motion Down An Incline You have a summer job working with a team investigating accidents for the state safety board. To decide on the cause of one accident, your team needs to determine the acceleration of a car rolling down a hill without any brakes. Everyone agrees that the car’s velocity increases as it rolls down the hill. Your team’s supervisor believes that the car's acceleration also increases as it rolls down the hill. Do you agree? To resolve the issue, you decide to investigate the motion of a cart moving down an inclined track in the laboratory.

Main Problem Features Requires Understanding of Velocity & Acceleration Requires Experimentation, Data Analysis, & Data Interpretation Requires Presentation of Evidence

Motion Of A Bouncing Ball Your friend who is an animation and multimedia major shows you a video simulation of a bouncing ball that he has created. He asks you to determine whether the motion of the ball is realistic. That is, does it follows the laws of physics? How would you determine whether the simulation is realistic?

Main Problem Features Requires Understanding of Projectile Motion Requires Data Analysis & Data Interpretation Requires Presentation of Evidence

Motion With Friction You are driving north on Marsh Road, just past Haslett High School, when the light at the intersection of Marsh and Nemoke Trail turns yellow. You notice a police car waiting for the light at the intersection and decide to slam on the brakes, rather than taking a chance by possibly going through a red light. Your car comes to a screeching halt and you are relieved that you did not end up in the middle of the intersection. Surprisingly, the police officer stops you and, after a quick measurement of your tire marks, issues you a ticket for speeding. She does not have her radar equipment with her at the time, so she relies on her knowledge of physics in arguing that you must have been going faster than the speed limit just before you applied your brakes. You are outraged and decide to do a little physics yourself. You remember that you have some unusually heavy pieces of equipment in your truck. You also remember that your tires are narrower than the size recommended by the manufacturer. You argue that your car left an unusually long skid mark because of the extra weight and narrower tires, even though you were not speeding. Will the judge be convinced by your argument? Support your argument with appropriate experimental evidence.

Main Problem Features Requires Understanding of F-ma Requires Learning about Friction Requires Experimentation, Data Analysis, & Data Interpretation Requires Synthesis of Experimental Evidence Requires Presentation of Evidence

Assessment/Results: –Students hate it! –Students do not do any better on traditional exams –Students still show difficulty designing and performing experiments on the final practical exam –But students do become more effective in presenting their arguments and providing supporting evidence

Student Feedback Survey We are very interested in your honest opinion regarding this course and in your reaction to the problem/project-based approach used to teach this course. Your responses to the following questions will help us improve this course. 1. The experiment problems and projects used in this course helped me understand the course materials better by requiring me to think. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments: 2.The experiment problems and projects used in this course kept me interested. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments: 3.The experiment problems and projects used in this course were a waste of my time. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments: 4.Working in groups helped me understand the material better. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments:

5.My group worked well together in solving problems and doing experiments. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments: 6.I think lectures are a more effective way to learn. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments: 7.There were enough lectures in this course. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments: 8.I’d rather work through “cookbook” labs, where I am told exactly what to do. (a) Strongly Disagree(b) Disagree(c) Not Sure(d) Agree(e) Strongly Agree Comments: 9.Overall, how would you rate this course compared to the purely lecture/lab courses that you have taken in the past? (a) Worse than lecture/lab courses(b) About the same(c) Better than lecture/lab courses Comments:

Positive Comments The experiments I did…kept me interested and served for one fourth of the knowledge I have in this course. Having little or no information did get my brain working harder… I liked having to design our own experiments rather than being given a procedure. If you know all the steps it is not really an experiment.

Negative Comments If a person has no foundation whatsoever, then some guidance or even lecturing should be necessary. You expected too much of us. The bookwork helped better for the tests. The labs almost seemed unnecessary. Not a waste of my time, but I think there were too many labs in this course.

Negative Comments I feel a little more time spent on lectures might do some good. I do better with lectures and problems. My Learning Style Lectures + Attempting Homework = Pass

Next Step: Develop more quantitative measures of improvement in evidence-based reasoning skills.

Credits Ken Heller, University of Minnesota Mark Servis, DeWitt High School Joyce Parker, MSU PBL Project

Thank You!

Contact Information: Alex Azima Lansing Community College alex@lcc.edu

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