Author Information

Zoe Hasham


Laboratory courses expose students to the important skills of thinking and working scientifically; this may mean looking for correlational variables, testing a hypothesis, or confirming a theory. In the Calculus-Based Physics I course at Bridgewater State University, students are introduced to the idea of using an experimental setup to confirm fundamental physical principles studied in class. Students often struggle to master this idea of making a connection between theory and experiment, so we tested two different methods of improving the laboratory experience: prelaboratory data activities and scaffolded laboratory procedures. By tracking student progress through laboratory journals and conceptual tests, normalizing grades recorded for different groups, and calculating the gains made in each semester involved in the project, we can begin to see the effect of these different curriculum designs. Results of this project support methods which emphasize laboratory process over course content: semesters where pre-laboratory data activities were used showed a negligible laboratory gain of +0.0625, while the semester where scaffolded laboratory procedures were used showed a high positive gain of +3.69. These findings will be used during curriculum development of future Calculus-Based Physics I semesters to provide students with more opportunities for growth.

Note on the Author

Zoe Hasham is graduating in May 2020 with a degree in Physics and Secondary Education. Her research in physics education with Dr. Jeffrey Williams (Physics) was made possible by the Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research summer grant. Zoe was inspired to do this research after serving as a Peer Leader in the Physics Department, working with the Calculus-Based Physics I and II classes. She plans to teach high school physics after graduation.

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