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Abstract Title: What Can Be Achieved By Building On Wonderful Ideas
Abstract: While Eleanor Duckworth makes an intuitively compelling argument for supporting students' novel, wonderful ideas in classrooms, the practical question for PER is how this educational philosophy is and can be aligned with the instructional goals in teaching physics. Critically, the answer depends not only on the intrinsic value of Duckworth's proposal, but also on how we imagine and define these instructional goals. This session will explore both (i) the novel (and familiar) learning goals that can be achieved by recognizing, valuing, and building on students' own ideas in physics and (ii) the pedagogical approaches for doing so.  Four presentations will provide research-based and instructional perspectives on these issues, and an extended panel discussion will invite attendees to contribute their questions and thoughts around "wonderful" learning outcomes and their implications for teaching and research.

Anna Phillips will present on a physics course focused on developing students own ideas and arguments. In this course, students came to value their own ideas more over the course of the semester.

Jessica Watkins and Eve Manz will examine an introductory physics episode to analyze how a teacher responds to a student's "wonderful" uncertainty to engage a class in collective sense-making while making progress toward canonical ideas.

Brian Frank will ask, "Is there room for wonderful student ideas within the canon of introductory physics?"  He will present case studies of students having wonderful ideas in introductory physics and discuss how such moments benefit from careful instructional planning and curriculum design.

Anne Leak will present two studies on bringing wonderful ideas into the classroom and the novel approaches that students develop for solving problems outside of the classroom.  She will discuss how integrating students' wonderful ideas into physics courses can motivate and prepare students for solving complex problems.
Abstract Type: Talk Symposium
Session Time: Parallel Sessions Cluster III
Room: Meeting Room 3

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Eric Kuo
University of Pittsburgh
and Co-Presenter(s)
Presenters: B. Frank, A. Leak, E. Manz, A. Phillips, J. Watkins

Symposium Specific Information

Moderator: Eric Kuo
Presentation 1 Title: "I just don't trust myself" to "there are so many ways [I] can go about it": Case studies of students coming to value their own ideas
Presentation 1 Authors: Anna McLean Phillips
Presentation 1 Abstract: Supporting students' development of more expert-like beliefs about physics is a common goal of reformed physics courses. Measures of students' beliefs about physics (e.g., "Knowledge in physics consists of many disconnected topics." [1]) are common, and it seems plausible that students' attitudes towardstheir own ideas could be related to these beliefs. Drawing on data from interviews and homework, I trace the journey of four students who came to value and trust their own ideas while developing more expert-like beliefs about physics. I also present a case of a student who maintained a novice-like view of physics and discounted the value of their own ideas throughout the semester as a contrast. I will conclude with questions to consider both for research and instruction as we seek to support students coming to value their own ideas within physics courses.

[1] W. Adams, K. Perkins, N. Podolefsky, M. Dubson, N. Finkelstein, and C. Wieman, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 2, 010101 (2006).
Presentation 2 Title: Examining how classroom communities transform a student's uncertainty to engage in scientific sense-making
Presentation 2 Authors: Jessica Watkins and Eve Manz
Presentation 2 Abstract: When we think of students' wonderful ideas, we should include their wonderful uncertainties, their sense of unease around gaps or inconsistencies in understanding phenomena. A growing body of literature demonstrates the different ways in which students' uncertainties can promote collaborative sense-making and situate the development of scientific accounts, practices, and epistemologies (Berland & Reiser, 2011; Manz, 2015; Conlin, 2012). However, there have been few analyses of whole-class classroom conversations motivated by and oriented toward uncertainty, leaving questions about what work communities need to do to productively take up an individual's expression of uncertainty and how teachers can support this work while addressing multiple instructional (conceptual, epistemic, affective) aims. To address this gap, we conducted a thematic analysis across five cases to understand how classroom communities transformed a student's expression of uncertainty into an episode of collective, scientific sense-making. We found that across our episodes, communities engaged in three forms of work: (1) articulating and motivating a problem, (2) developing and evaluating alignments, and (3) managing shifting goals. We illustrate three themes in an episode from an introductory physics course, highlighting the role that the instructor played in supporting the classroom community to engage in sense-making while addressing canonical targets.
Presentation 3 Title: Is there room for wonderful student ideas within the canon of introductory physics?
Presentation 3 Authors: Brian Frank
Presentation 3 Abstract: Introductory physics courses often come with constraints that make them less than the ideal setting for responsive teaching efforts that aim to support students in having wonderful ideas of their own. In this talk, I present cases of students having wonderful ideas in introductory physics courses for the purpose of providing rich illustrations of how wonderful ideas may emerge when parts of the canon are opened up for student sense-making. I follow up with a discussion of how such moments benefit from careful instructional planning and curriculum design that are aimed at supporting both traditional and non-traditional outcomes.
Presentation 4 Title: Community and Career Contexts as Spaces to Build and Apply Students' Wonderful Ideas
Presentation 4 Authors: Anne E. Leak, Kelly N. Martin, and Benjamin M. Zwickl
Presentation 4 Abstract: Meaningful contexts can provide a space for building and using wonderful ideas that go beyond concepts to include innovative ways for doing physics (practices) and using physics to solve problems. Integrating meaningful contexts based on students' communities, interests, and future careers into physics courses can motivate and prepare students for solving complex problems inside and outside of the classroom. In this talk, I share ethnographic interview and observational data from two different studies. The first provides examples of wonderful ideas being generated in a community and interest-based science curriculum (e.g., accessing clean drinking water to improve community health). The second provides examples of meaningful contexts in physics-related workplaces (e.g., designing and making in physical and digital environments) and how such contexts can support novel approaches for doing and using physics. These findings highlight strategies for integrating meaningful contexts into physics classes that can support the generation and application of students' wonderful ideas.