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Abstract Title: Stop calling me stupid: Failure avoidance versus empowerment in physics learning
Abstract: Research presented by panel participants explores the hypothesis that high school physics classrooms often promote fear of failure rather than the spirit and excitement of scientific investigation.  How do teachers of physics create environments that invite students to engage openly in communal efforts to make sense of the natural world rather than causing students to retreat due to internal fears of failure?  Data will be presented that begin to extract particular strategies for promoting empowerment and agency rather than fear and alienation. We begin to outline the characteristics of classroom environments can leverage the natural curiosity of students so that the very process of scientific inquiry can serve as the mechanism through which agency and empowerment is achieved. This, we claim, is the missing link in building what could be a very strong connection between the students' intellectual, inquisitive, and social selves and the playful, social, and systematic world of science.
Abstract Type: Talk Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Ben Van Dusen
CU Boulder

Symposium Specific Information

Discussant: Valerie Otero
Presentation 1 Title: Boundary Objects that Mediate Student Physics Motivation
Presentation 1 Authors: Ben Van Dusen
Presentation 1 Abstract: This research examines how specific tools can serve as boundary objects that mediate contexts in which students feel motivation to engage in physics. In this study I examine student motivations toward physics and the role of tools in reorganizing social practices in the classroom environment and culture--specifically iPads acting as boundary objects, bridging the cultural practices of students' peers, the physics classroom, and the physics community. The act of creating screencasts arises as a central example of how the iPad can be used to generate and share physics knowledge, while allowing students to incorporate references that are meaningful in their peer cultures. The social construct of a boundary object will be elaborated to demonstrate how learning physics is, at its heart, a socio-cultural cognitive task.
Presentation 2 Title: Changing the Locus of Evaluation to Promote Scientific Induction
Presentation 2 Authors: Michael J. Ross
Presentation 2 Abstract: This study investigates the impact of nontraditional evaluative structures in the physics classroom on student affect. Typically, physics students' answers in discussions and on exams are evaluated by the instructor as right or wrong. In the learning environment that was the subject of this study, students were expected to reconcile their own ideas with available laboratory evidence and reach consensus with their peers. The overwhelming majority of the 15 students interviewed expressed positive attitudes towards learning physics and positive identification with physics. Video analysis suggests that this nontraditional evaluative practice resulted in authentic scientific reasoning, persistence, and enjoyment among students as they engaged in scientific induction. These findings suggest that the relocation of evaluative authority of students' ideas and explanations to laboratory evidence and social consensus, rather than with teacher and text, can promote more authentic engagement, enjoyment, and a sense of identification with physics.
Presentation 3 Title: Supporting engagement and confidence of ELLs through physics
Presentation 3 Authors: Enrique Suarez
Presentation 3 Abstract: English Language Learners (ELLs) are frequently left on the periphery of classroom interactions. Due to limited language skills, teachers and peers communicate with these students less often, decreasing the number of opportunities to engage. Exclusion can be avoided with learning activities that invite all students to participate and contribute their thinking. We argue that environments and activities that privilege scientific inductive reasoning increase possibilities for emerging bilingual students to engage. This study investigated third-grade students' discussions about factors that affect how objects make sound. Students came from a variety of language backgrounds; all were considered beginner/intermediate ELLs. Results show that the goal of inducing principles from actual phenomena encouraged students to communicate their ideas and reasoning, boosting students' confidence in expressing themselves. Following the hybrid space argument of Vygotsky's theory of concept formation, we see how external expression could lead to internalization of science concepts, and to develop English language skills.
Presentation 4 Title: Capitalizing on digital natives' technological skills
Presentation 4 Authors: Angela Cannava
Presentation 4 Abstract: The PER community has developed materials that build on students' conceptual and epistemological resources.  However, little attention has been given to students' technological resources, which are becoming increasingly important.  As "digital natives" make up the majority of our student population, a simple change of replacing paper and pencil lab notebooks with digital notebooks may have a dramatic impact on the extent to which students feel valued and respected.  Additionally, digital notebooks are more aligned with the way digital natives have learned to do their work.  Initial results suggest that digital lab notebooks lead to increased student achievement, engagement, and quality of work.  Survey results revealed that students preferred digital notebooks because they allow for "easier data sharing" and increased "versatility."  These results will be discussed along with implications for instruction and further research.
Presentation 5 Title: Effects of Flexibility on Homework Completion and Student Performance
Presentation 5 Authors: Alisa Grimes
Presentation 5 Abstract: Research has shown that student choice and flexibility in the learning environment are linked to motivation and agency. This education research investigates the effect of choice and flexibility in impacting homework completion rate.  Two different classroom treatments were applied over two terms of an urban high school chemistry course. The first treatment involved flexible, supportive classroom structures that theoretically would lead to a greater homework completion rate. The second treatment (or control) involved the traditional, authoritative structures that had been in place--students were penalized for not completing homework within the designated timeframe.  Initial results suggest that the flexible supportive structures led to greater homework completion rates and to higher performances on the district assessment over the non-flexible homework condition.  These results will be discussed along with instructional implications, explanatory conjectures, and lessons learned.