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“Often, however, labs are used to reinforce physics content presented in lectures.Our findings have consistently shown that these labs are not meeting their design goals.They are open to changing their mind rather than stubbornly clinging to an ideological belief system.
“What are the right answers to these sorts of questions?
With thinking and reasoning, there are lots of possible ways to go.
“This will be a closed response standardized test that allows any instructor to measure whether their students can think critically about a physics experiment,” Holmes says.
Holmes and her coresearcher, Carl Wieman of Stanford University, began designing the assessment by gathering initial data from respondents at multiple universities.
James Alcock's new book about belief is a masterpiece that explains how our minds work, how we form beliefs, and why they are so powerful.
It amounts to a course in psychology and an owner's manual for the brain.As a loftier, long-term goal, how can we provide students with transferable skills that will make them critical thinkers and good citizens?”To shed light on those questions, Holmes is working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to design a tool that can assess critical thinking.If this is how the best science is done, then why don’t we start giving students autonomy to explore and create in the lab early in their university training? Holmes, Physics, says that perhaps they’ll get a taste of what it means to be a scientist early enough that they’ll choose science as a career path.Holmes studies the teaching and learning of physics, especially in lab courses, but her work is applicable more broadly across many disciplines.“In the lab students have their hands on the equipment,” she says.“I’m looking at what they are getting or not getting out of that experience and also digging into what the lab space is actually good for.For instance, they were asked if they thought the data collected was reasonable, how well they felt the hypothetical group designed the experiment, and how well the group evaluated the model.“We were looking for the most common answers an introductory physics student would give,” Holmes explains.“But we also wanted to collect as many responses as we could from advanced physics majors, professors, and grad students to see the full spectrum of possible answers.” The researchers distilled the open-ended answers down into a multiple-choice test that can be given to students before they take a lab course and again afterward, to see how well they have learned the concepts.They asked them a series of open-ended questions about an introductory level mass-on-a-spring physics experiment conducted by a hypothetical group of people.Respondents answered questions about the hypothetical group’s methods and the data that the group collected.