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Doing Science or Doing a Lab? Engaging Students with Scientific Reasoning during Physics Lab Experiments Documents

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Doing Science or Doing a Lab? Engaging Students with Scientific Reasoning during Physics Lab Experiments 

written by N. G. Holmes and Doug A. Bonn

Undergraduate teaching labs often include expectations for students to use various sensemaking and reasoning behaviours when conducting an experiment. These expectations, however, are often unsupported in the explicit lab structure, and, as such, students develop distinctions between behaviours associated with "doing a lab" or "doing science." This study examines if and how students engage in reflection and evaluation of results during an experiment that involves two sources of systematic error. While many students reflected on their results and identified the source of the larger systematic error, very few did so for the smaller one. In fact, for the latter case, many students reported significantly inflated uncertainties, effectively hiding the systematic error altogether. We use these results, in-class observations, and post-lab interviews to describe how and why students failed to demonstrate authentic scientific inquiry behaviours during the lab.

Published February 1, 2014
Last Modified January 31, 2014

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