Thesis Detail Page
Students' Understanding of Measurement and Uncertainty in the Physics Laboratory: Social construction, underlying concepts, and quantitative analysis
written by Rebecca Lippmann
To succeed in the physical sciences and other fields, people must know how to gather, analyze, and draw conclusions from experimental data: not just following steps, but understanding the concepts of measurement and uncertainty. We design the Scientific Community Laboratory (SCL) to teach students to utilize their everyday skills of argument and decision-making for data gathering and analysis. We then develop research tools for studying students' understanding of measurement and uncertainty and use the tools to investigate students in the traditional laboratory and SCL.
For students to apply their everyday skills of argument and decision-making, they must be in a state of mind (a frame) where they consider these skills productive. The laboratory design should create an environment which encourages such a frame. We determine student's frames through interviews, surveys, and behavior analysis. We find the time students spend sense-making in the SCL is five times more than in traditional labs. Students in both labs frequently evaluate their level of understanding but only in the SCL does that evaluation cause a change to more productive behavior.
We analyze lab video to determine underlying concepts commonly used by students when gathering and analyzing data. We develop a multiple-choice survey which asks students to analyze data from a hypothetical lab context. With this survey we find more students using range to compare data sets after the SCL (from 12% before to 43% after).
For students to understand measurement and uncertainty, we argue that the laboratory must be designed to encourage students to be in a frame where they view resources used to argue and evaluate as appropriate, engage in productive behavior, monitor their behavior, use productive resources to build an understanding of the underlying concepts, and use those concepts to analyze data. We use interviews, surveys, and video data to study these requirements and to evaluate the SCL curriculum.
University: University of Maryland
Academic Department: Physics
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