Jun 13 – 19, 2015
University of Alberta
America/Edmonton timezone
Welcome to the 2015 CAP Congress! / Bienvenue au congrès de l'ACP 2015!

Making Comparisons - A Strategy for Teaching Scientific Reasoning in a First Year Lab

Jun 17, 2015, 2:45 PM
CCIS L1-160 (University of Alberta)

CCIS L1-160

University of Alberta

Oral (Non-Student) / orale (non-étudiant) Physics Education / Enseignement de la physique (DPE-DEP) W2-8 Labs and/or undergraduate research experiences (DPE) / Expériences de recherche en laboratoire et/ou au premier cycle (DEP)


Prof. D.A. Bonn (University of British Columbia)


Recent work on first year labs at UBC have focussed on teaching students widely-applicable data handling skills: especially, understanding uncertainty, statistical tools, and graphical techniques. In the past year we have also targeted students' critical thinking, with a relatively simple framework that asks students to make quantitative comparisons, reflect on those comparisons, and then act on them. These iterative loops force students to improve their experiments and/or re-think the models they are testing. We have found that these expert behaviours become a habit-of-mind even after the explicit instructions to iterate are removed. More importantly we find that when combined with experiments that force them to confront problems with models, these iterative comparison loops lead to striking improvements in the quality of students' reflection on data and models. These gains are also found to transfer into their behaviour in second year, a striking instance of transfer.

Primary author

Prof. D.A. Bonn (University of British Columbia)


Dr N.G. Holmes (Stanford University)

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