Transfer of Scientific Abilities

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

We conducted three studies using this funding:

Study 1 (quantitative): The study investigates how students in introductory physics courses develop and transfer such scientific abilities as the ability to design an experiment, to evaluate the assumptions and uncertainties, communicate, and evaluate the consistency of different representations etc. It was carried out in the context of instructional lab with the experimental group (students who designed their own experiments, reflected on their work and used self-assessment rubrics in labs during the semester) and the control group (students who performed traditional labs). At the end of the semester students had to perform two labs in the new content areas – in physics that they have not studies and in biology.

Study 2 (qualitative): Investigates how experts and novices approach a difficult experimental problem, We videotaped 8 groups of undergraduate and graduate students working on a difficult experimental problem and then transcribed the videos and coded participant discourse for metacognitive statements.

Study 3 (quantitative): Investigates whether innovation in an introductory physics lab prepares students for future learning better than doing cook book labs. 57 volunteers were split into three conditions: control group performed a design lab (see studies above) i the familiar content area, 1st experimental group performed a cook book lab in the area of thermal conductivity and the 2nd experimental group performed an innovation lab in the same area. The next day all groups received the same 9 - page text describing three conductivity-related phenomena (includuing thermal conductivity) and answered several questions. Performances of the three groups and the time they voluntarily took to answer questions were compared.

Setting: 

All studies took place at Rutgers, Douglass campus, in a regular instructional lab setting. The first study was conducted during class hours, the second took place during extra time, winter break; the third study occurred during two weekend days.

Research Design: 

The research design for the first study is experimental, comparative, taking place over four months’ time. The intervention consisted of the inclusion of the instructional labs where students design their own experiments in an introductory course for science majors. In study one, the comparative condition consisted of two groups of students taking the same course with the same instructors but having different labs. Study 2 was a case study. It consisted of groups of students with different level of expertise and academic background. This project collects original data using assessments of learning/achievement tests and personal and videography observation. The analysis for study 1 consisted of observations of students, creating timelines (using existing instruments), scoring lab reports using rubrics (developed and tested for reliability before the study began), exam scores, used t-tests and chi-square to analyze the differences in the groups. Study 2 consisted of transcribing videos, developing a coding scheme, increasing a reliability of the scheme, using the scheme to code the transcripts, and analyzing the results of the coding.

Study three was an a lab study that used a double transfer paradigm. Data consisted of student direct observations, collected artifacts (student lab reports), responses to the questions, and time-related information (how much time participants spend voluntarily reading the text and answering questions). The analysis consisted of developing and refining a coding scheme for the questions, increasing the reliability of the scheme and analyzing the results of the coding.

Findings: 

Study 1: We found significant differences between the groups on all of the above abilities. Students in the design group performed much better. No differences between the groups on the traditional exams were found.

Study 2: We found that the rate of metacognition was the same for the students with strong academic back ground independently of their age or area of expertise (biology graduate students, physics graduate students or undergraduates) and the same with for the students with weak academic background. However, students with weak academic background increased their metacognitive rate spontaneously when they were relating their present experiences to the experiences in the design labs (from the previous study).

Study 3: We found that the innovation group significantly outperformed the control group on the questions, the cook-book lab group and control group performances were identical, and the innovation group was marginally significantly better than the cook-book group. The most interesting finding was the that  the control and cook book groups chose to spend much less time answering questions (all groups were given the same time and those students chose to sit and wait without working) , while the innovation group persisted for much longer, unprompted (the difference is around 30 min, statistically significant).

Publications & Presentations: 

Peer refereed publications

1. Etkina, E., Karelina, A., Ruibal-Villasenor, M., Jordan, R., Rosengrant, D., & Hmelo-Silver, C. (2010). Design and reflection help students develop scientific abilities: Learning in introductory physics laboratories, Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19, 1, 54-98.

2. Etkina, E., Karelina, A., Murthy, S., & Ruibal-Villasenor, M. (2009). Using action research to improve learning and formative assessment to conduct research. Physical Review. Special Topics, Physics Education Research, 5, 010109 .

3. Etkina, E., Karelina, A., and Ruibal-Villasenor, M. (2008) How long does it take? A study of student acquisition of scientific abilities. Physical Review, Special Topics, Physics Education Research, 4, 020108.

4. Karelina, A. and Etkina, E. (2007) Acting like a physicist: a study of student approach to experimental design, Physical Review, Special Topics, Physics Education Research, 3, 020106.

5. Etkina, E., Gentile, M., Karelina, A., Ruibal-Villasenor, M., & Suran, G. (2009). Searching for "Preparation for Future Learning" in physics," Proceedings of the 2009 Physics Education Research Conference, Ann Arbor, MI. 1179, 141-144.

6. Etkina, E., Van Heuvelen, A., Brookes, D., Murthy, S, Karelina, A., and Ruibal-Villasenor. Development and transfer of student scientific abilities. Proceedings of the National STEM Assessment Conference: Washington DC, October 19-21, 2006. Deeds, Donald G. and Callen, Bruce W., Eds. National Science Foundation and Drury University, 2008. 68-80.

7. From physics to biology: Helping students attain all terrain knowledge. In 2007 Physics Education Research Conference, (Greensboro, NC, August 2007) edited by L. Hsu, C. Henderson, and L. McCullough, AIP Conference Proceedings, Vol 951, 96-99.

8. Karelina, A. Etkina, E., Van Heuvelen, A., Rubali Villasenor, M, Rosengrant, D., and Hmelo-Silver, C. (2007) Design labs: Does transfer occur? In 2007 Physics Education Research Conference, (Greensboro, NC, August 2007) edited by L. Hsu, C. Henderson, and L. McCullough, AIP Conference Proceedings, Vol 951, 92-95.

9. Etkina, E., A.Van Heuvelen, A, Karelina, M. Ruibal Villasenor, and Rosengrant, D. (2007). "Spending Time on Design: Does It Hurt Physics Learning?" In 2007 Physics Education Research Conference, (Greensboro, NC, August 2007) edited by L. Hsu, C. Henderson, and L. McCullough, AIP Conference Proceedings, Vol 951, 88-91.

Invited conference presentations

1. "Helping our students learn physics and think like scientists" - a plenary talk at the GIREP (International Research Group on Physics Teaching) meeting, Reims, France, August 2010.

2. "Hidden benefits of experimental design" - an invited poster at the 2010 PERC meeting, Portland, Oregon, July 2010.

3. "The purpose of education: What will students remember when they forget everything?" - a plenary talk at the National AAPT Summer Meeting, Portland, Oregon, July 2010.

4.  "Did Faraday and Hertz do hands-on?" - an invited presentation at the National AAPT Winder Meeting, Washington, DC. February 2010.

5.  Etkina, E. "What is Investigative Science Learning Environment and how to use it in your classroom" - a series of 3 invited presentations at the VI Central America Physics Education Research Conference, Puebla, Mexico, Sptember 2009.

6. E. Etkina, A. Karelina and M. Ruibal Vissasenor, “Formative assessment – a two way feedback tool” PERC 2008 meetings, Edmonton, Canada, July 2008.

7. A Karelina and E. Etkina, “Beyond correctness: conceptualizing and coding high quality scientific reasoning”, AAPT Winter Meeting, Baltimore, MD, January, 2008.

8. E. Etkina, A. Karelina, A. Warren, “Exploring modeling as a process of simplifying real objects, interactions, systems and processes”, Physics Education Research Conference, Greensboro, NC, August 2nd, 2007.

9. E. Etkina, “Investigative Science Learning Environment: combining the processes of science and cognitive strategies to learn physics” - an invited presentation at the NJ AAPT conference, Princeton, NJ, March 17th, 2007.

Contributed, peer reviewed conference presentations

1. Etkina, E., Karelina, A., Ruibal-Villasenor, M., & Suran, G. "Preparation for future learning in physics" - presentation at NARST 2010 Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, March, 2010.

2. E. Etkina, A. Karelina, M. Ruibal-Villasenor, R. Jordan and C. Hmelo-Silver, “Transfer of scientific abilities: building the habits of mind” – paper given at the AERA Annual Conference, NY, NY, March, 2008.

3. E. Etkina, S. Murthy “Taking first steps to understand the transfer of scientific abilities” - paper given at NARST Annual Conference, San Francisco, CA, April, 2006.

Contributed non-peer reviewed conference presentations

1. Etkina, E., Gentile, M., Karelina, A., Ruibal-Villasenor, M., & Suran, G. "Searching for "Preparation for Future Learning in physics" – Physics Education Research Conference, Ann Arbor, Michigan, July, 2009.

2. Ruibal-Villasenor, M., & Etkina, E. "Student mathematical diffuclties in a physics lab" - National AAPT Winter Meeting, Washington, DC 2010

3. E. Etkina, A. Karelina, R, Jordan, M. Ruibail Villansehor, C. Hmelo-Silver and A. Van Heuvelen, “Transfer of scientific abilities”, NSF REESE conference, Washington, DC, February, 2009.

4. E. Etkina, A. Karelina and M. Ruibal Villasenor, “Assessment for learning and action-based research: a model for course design” National AAPT Winter meeting, Chicago, Il., February 2009.

5. M. Ruibal-Villasenor and E. Etkina, “Students’ own experiments and epistemic processes that they elicit”. National AAPT Winter meeting, Chicago, Il., February 2009.

6. M. Ruibal Villasenor, A. Karelina, E. Etkina, “Expanding learning opportunities: the value of students’ own experiments”, National AAPT Summer meeting, Edmonton, Canada, July 2008.

7. M. Ruibal Villasenor, A. Karelina, E. Etkina, “The benefits of allowing mistakes”, National AAPT Summer meeting, Edmonton, Canada, July 2008.

8. M.RuibalVillasenor and E. Etkina “What Happens when Students Design Their Own Experiments: Frames, Goals and Strategies” PERC 2008, Edmonton, Canada, July 2008.

9. E. Etkina, A. Karelina, M. Ruibal Villasenor, “The dynamic assessment of student acquisition of scientific abilities”, National AAPT Winter Meeting, Baltimore, MD, January, 2008.

10. M. Ruibal Villasenor, A. Karelina and E. Etkina, “Habits of mind: Learning to reason like a scientist”, National AAPT Winter Meeting, Baltimore, MD, January, 2008.

11. E. Etkina, “Investigative Science Learning Environment: True inquiry in the classroom” – an interactive presentation and the NJ Science Convention, October, 2007.

12. E. Etkina, A. Van Heuvelen, A. Karelina, D. Rosengrant, M. Ruibal Villasenor, D. Rosengrant.“Spending time on design: does it hurt physics learning?” Physics Education Research Conference, Greensboro, NC. August, 2007.

13. A. Karelina, M. Ruibal Villasenor, A. Van Heuvelen, D. Rosengrant, E. Etkina, “Design and non-design labs: does transfer occur?”. Physics Education Research Conference, Greensboro, NC. August, 2007.

14. M. Ruibal Villasenor, Van Heuvelen, A. Karelina, D. Rosengrant, M. Ruibal Villasenor, D. Rosengrant, E. Etkina, “From physics to biology: helping students attain all terrain knowledge”, Physics Education Research Conference, Greensboro, NC. August, 2007.

15. E. Etkina, A. Van Heuvelen, A. Karelina, M. Ruibal Villasenor, D. Rosengrant, R. Jordan and C. Hmelo-Silver, “Transfer of scientific abilities: PER design project”, AAPT Summer National meeting, Greensboro, NC, August 2007.

16. A. Karelina, A. Van Heuvelen, A. Karelina, M. Ruibal Villasenor, D. Rosengrant, R. Jordan, C. Hmelo-Silver, “Comparing design and non-design labs in terms of transfer”, AAPT Summer National meeting, Greensboro, NC, August 2007.

17. M. Ruibal Villasenor, E. Etkina, A. Van Heuvelen, A. Karelina, M. Ruibal Villasenor, D. Rosengrant, R. Jordan and C. Hmelo-Silver, “Helping students attain all-terrain knowledge”, AAPT Summer National meeting, Greensboro, NC, August 2007.

18. E. Etkina, “Transfer of scientific abilities” - 2006 NSF RESE conference, Washington DC, December, 2006.

Invited colloquia and seminars – presenter – E. Etkina

1."Helping students learn to think like scientists while learning physics" - an invited physics colloquium at the Physics Department of the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, October, 2009.

2. “Helping students develop scientific habits of mind” – an invited physics colloquium, Department of Physics, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, January 2009.

3. “The Bridge” – an invited physics colloquium, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, October 2008.

4. “Developing and transferring the habits of mind in a physics course” – an invited seminar, Physics Education Research Group, University of Illinois, Urbana, January, 2008.

5. “Development and transfer of scientific abilities” – an invited seminar, physics department, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, October 18th, 2007.

6. “How students develop and transfer scientific abilities” – an invited seminar for physics Education Research Group, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, September 27th, 2007.

7. “ISLE and the transfer of scientific abilities” – an invited colloquium at Harvard University, Physics Department, Cambridge, MA, August 23rd, 2007.

8. “ISLE in an introductory physics course” - an invited colloquium at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Physics Department, March 1st, 2007.