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Title:Cultivating adaptive expertise in the introductory physics laboratory
Author(s):Ansell, Katherine
Director of Research:Selen, Mats
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Stelzer, Tim
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gollin, George; Krist, Christina
Department / Program:Physics
Discipline:Physics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Physics Education Research
Introductory Physics Laboratories
Course Reform
IOLab
Calculus-based Mechanics
Hybrid online lab
Laboratory skills
Teaching independence
Mixed methods education research
Abstract:Introductory physics labs are promising spaces for students to develop their abilities to creatively and independently solve research problems. However, many introductory labs focus their efforts on using experiments to demonstrate concepts from lecture, sacrificing student agency to ensure that lab activities can be carried out quickly and have reliable outcomes. If we want students to become adaptive experts in the lab, the objective of introductory lab instruction must shift its focus from teaching concepts to creating a space that cultivates students' decision-making abilities while supporting their skill development. This dissertation describes a new introductory physics lab format that supports students' adaptive expertise. The new curriculum was developed for a large-enrollment introductory calculus-based mechanics course (Physics 211) at a large Midwestern university. The instructional model prioritizes student agency and decision-making, while developing relevant experimental skills that support expert-like decisions. Simultaneously, the reformed lab leverages the affordances of the Interactive Online Laboratory (IOLab) data acquisition system to encourage ownership and ingenuity. These reforms were piloted with a fraction of the course in the Spring 2016 through Spring 2017 semesters. Course design principles were refined throughout the pilot stage based on classroom observations, and administrative needs were identified and addressed. As of Fall 2019, the new lab format is being used at full scale in the introductory calculus-based mechanics course. This lab reform has expanded to include the algebra-based introductory sequence, and will soon also include the second semester of the calculus-based introductory sequence. A lab practical exam was used during the pilot stage to determine the effects of the new lab format on students, as compared to students from the concept-focused lab. Two studies examined the link between students' skills and the decisions they made. In the first study, video analysis was used to identify student actions as completed an unstructured lab activity. While all students were able to design measurement techniques, students from the new lab format were more likely to engage in higher-order thinking about their experiment. In the second study, students' responses to data analysis questions were categorized to identify the reasoning strategies they used and the conclusions they reached. This study revealed that students generally used the methods they were taught in class to analyze their data and that students' answers to data analysis questions can be influenced by their expectations about the purpose of physics experiments and by the salience of features in data. The results presented in this dissertation support our claim that this lab format promotes the development of adaptive expertise and suggest further dimensions of its impact on students, including the role of their expectations on their actions.
Issue Date:2020-04-13
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/107872
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Katherine Ansell
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-08-26
Date Deposited:2020-05


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