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PERC 2016 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Building Research Questions from Observational Data
Abstract: This session is about how diverse research projects developed research questions and chose methodologies using observational data. The focus in the session is not particular populations, but rather on how access to observational data shapes the kinds of research questions and methods available to us. Projects include from an informal program that blends children and university students (Hinko); computational classrooms for grade schoolers (Hansen&Harlow); intensive lab experiences for incoming university students (Chase&Zwolak); and upper-division physics courses (Nguyen&Chari).  Across all projects, we explore observational data gives affordances and constraints to the kinds of research available for us to do.  More broadly, we explore questions of how methods and research questions co-evolve in light of access to particular kinds of data.
Abstract Type: Talk Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Eleanor C Sayre
Kansas State University
116 Cardwell Hall
Manhattan, 66506
Phone: 7853135039

Parallel Session Information

Activity Description: We will open with short introductory talks (3-5 minutes each) to introduce the projects, followed by panel discussion.  The panel discussion will naturally open out into table-based discussions for each table of participants.
Discussion Panel Members: Only co-presenters / organizer.
Proposed Discussion Questions: Most questions will be generated from the audience, but I expect that questions will center around "why" questions: why these methods? why these theories? how generative (of new questions) were your methods/theories? how generative (of new theories/methods) were your questions?

Symposium Specific Information

Moderator: Eleanor C Sayre
Presentation 1 Title: From rich points to research questions: A design-based research approach
Presentation 1 Authors: Danielle B. Harlow & Alexandria K. Hansen
University of California, Santa Barbara
Presentation 1 Abstract: Design based research assumes a complex learning system and allows for researching cognition in context. Such research designs involve systematically observing and understanding learning while also designing curriculum, pedagogy, or contexts. The goal of design-based research is not to improve a specific context (though it may do so); the goal is to contribute to models and theories of how learners think. In our work, we create curricular modules based on research and then observe the curriculum in practice, paying special attention to instances when what happens in the classroom deviates from what we anticipate. We call these "rich points" after Agar's work (2000). Such events may indicate that elementary school students misinterpreted the activity goals (a local problem) or struggled to complete tasks we expect to be trivial (which may have implications for how children learn). Identifying such events through observations and discussion uncover new research questions and directions.
Presentation 2 Title: Rich interactions in an informal learning environment
Presentation 2 Authors: Katie Hinko
Presentation 2 Abstract: Informal physics learning environments are often highly complex and can vary widely in terms of format, goals, and participants. Effective assessments of informal settings need to align with the rules and norms of the environment in order to accurately reflect students' knowledge and experiences. In the case of informal learning that is exploratory and self-directed, formalized assessments such as concept inventories with multiple choice or Likert-style questions may not be appropriate. Observational data is one means of capturing the dynamics of such informal environments. We have spent the past three years collecting video from afterschool sessions where K-8 children and university students work together on open-ended, hands-on physics activities. In our afterschool program, many independent activities take place simultaneously; to capture a sample of these activities, we have structurally embedded and normalized daily video/audio recording for participants. Based on the recorded interactions between participants, we have developed research questions by applying a socio-cultural lens. We analyze moments of "rich" interaction using an activity theoretic framework and have characterized the pedagogical moves by university student volunteers, the response of K-8 students to these moves and the generation of scientifically creative ideas by K-8 students. These research findings inform our own program design and contribute to the broader understanding of teaching and learning physics in informal environments.
Presentation 3 Title: Network analysis of student collaboration
Presentation 3 Authors: Annie Chase, San Jose State University
Justyna Zwolak, Florida International University
IMPRESS Education Research Squad (IMPRESSERS)
Presentation 3 Abstract: How does student collaboration, both within small groups and between these groups, change in an intensive lab setting? We answer this research question by studying the IMPRESS (Integrating Metacognitive Practices and Research to Ensure Student Success) summer experience - a bridge program for first generation college and deaf/hard of hearing students designed to teach them how to reflect on, evaluate, and change their own thinking. The research team collected video data for the entire two week period, capturing small group and group to group interactions from a variety of angles.  We apply social network analysis (SNA), a well suited approach for studying individual student integration into a group as well as the dynamics of the group as a whole, to the video data. SNA uses the notion of nodes and ties to represent students and interactions between them. This method of analysis gives us a way to describe the IMPRESS students' collaboration quantitatively and visually in order to answer our research question.
Presentation 4 Title: Instructor's framing affects students' framing in upper-division physics problem solving
Presentation 4 Authors: Hai Nguyen, Deepa Chari
Kansas State University
Presentation 4 Abstract: Problem solving is an important part of learning physics at all levels.  In our work, we study students' in-class problem solving in upper-division physics courses.  We are particularly interested in how students interact with each other and with the instructor to use mathematics and build meaning in solving physics problems.
In our Electromagnetic Fields course, students spend the majority of class time solving problems in small groups; the instructor occasionally interrupts or assists them. From video data of students' problem solving, we abstract the students' and instructor's epistemological frames and frame shifts.  We look for trends in how students shift between frames during problem solving, and how the instructor's framing affects the students'.  From this quantitative work on framing trends comes new theory at the junction of framing and interaction analysis.