June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
26.1228.1 - 26.1228.9
Piloting i-‐Newton for the Experiential Learning of Dynamics Newtonian dynamics is the foundation for STEM education that starts in middle school and progresses through high school and college. A solid understanding of Newton’s laws is critical for students pursuing degrees in engineering, physics, and chemistry, as well as in most life sciences. Students seem proficient at reciting Newton’s law with ease; however, few are able to apply these laws to natural and engineered systems. This disconnect in students’ conceptual understanding may be linked to fundamental misconceptions of Newton’s laws and to an abundance of over fabricated examples. Hands-‐on laboratories that feature real measurements could allow students to probe the dynamics of realistic systems, thereby strengthening their conceptual understanding. However, the prohibitive cost of equipment and dearth of laboratory space limits these options. Our project aims to overcome these challenges by utilizing a new, highly-‐portable and inexpensive technology, which we call interactive-‐Newton (i-‐Newton), that can engage students in the experiential learning of dynamics outside the confines of the traditional teaching methods. We hypothesize that including i-‐Newton based instructor demonstrations and student experiments in undergraduate physics and engineering courses will positively impact students’ conceptual understanding. As a result of having a stronger understanding of the fundamental concepts, we hypothesize that this will also increase students’ self-‐efficacy and their intention to persist in the major. We introduced i-‐Newton experiments in two sections of PHYS 161: Introductory Honors Physics -‐ Laboratory and two sections of ME 240: Introduction to Dynamics and Vibrations. Students in these four course sections comprise our intervention group. For purposes of comparison, we established a control group which consisted of students enrolled in three sections of ME 240 in which i-‐Newton was NOT introduced. Students in both the intervention and control groups were asked to complete a series of instruments to provide data for assessing the impact of i-‐Newton. First, to measure the impact on students’ conceptual understanding, we used validated concept inventory instruments. Students in PHYS 160 completed the Force-‐Motion Concept Evaluation (FCME) at both the beginning and end of the course, while students in ME 240 completed the Dynamics Concept Inventory (DCI) at the end of the course. Additionally, students in both courses completed a modified version of the Longitudinal Assessment of Engineering Self-‐Efficacy (LAESE) survey. The LAESE is a validated instrument that measures engineering self-‐efficacy, course specific self-‐efficacy, intention to persist in the field, and feelings of inclusion. For this paper we will describe i-‐Newton in detail and present findings about the impact of i-‐Newton on students’ conceptual understanding, self-‐efficacy, and intention to persist in the major. In particular, for conceptual understanding, we will compare item-‐by-‐item gains in FCME data from the beginning to the end of the PHYS 161 courses, and we will compare these gains to historical trends. For ME 240, we will compare end-‐of-‐course DCI data for the control and the intervention groups on an item-‐by-‐item basis. To assess the impact on students’ self-‐efficacy and intention to persist in the major, we will compare relevant LAESE data from the beginning to the end of the term in each intervention class, and we will compare gains between the control and intervention groups. We will conclude by describing our plans for a broader implementation of i-‐Newton and offering suggestions for others wishing to use similar approaches to experiential learning.
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