Diversity of Learning Strategies


In your groups:

Pick a "Structure" (or use your own)

Pick a Science Practice (or Practices)

Pick one or more LOs.

Outline a lesson or lessons that uses the structure you picked, and would create student progress towards meeting the LO(s) and performing the SP(s). It may be as "big" or as "little" as you wish. Of course, we have limited time for you to plan something complicated, so something relatively simple will be fine. For instance, you don't have to create a whole lab investigation - you could give students a data sample and ask them to answer a question or evaluate the data. Rutgers ISLE has a lot of videos that could be used for this.

Prepare to present to the class - Produce a document for the shared folder.

I. Two Structures for Inquiry Investigations

1. Modeling

I.  Model development

Every unit in our curriculum begins with a paradigm experiment.  These experiments must span the desired dimensions of our curriculum.  We intend for their interpretations of experimental data to serve as the epistemological foundation and context for all that our students do.

Here is how we approach the paradigm experiments and their analyses.

A.  Qualitative description.  Students see a phenomenon which is to be modeled, and they suggest relevant descriptors for it.  The instructor nonjudgmentally records each suggestion.

B. Identification of variables. From among the descriptors suggested, students, subtly guided by the instructor, then identify those which may have a cause and effect relationship and that can be measured.   

      Here students determine the components of the resulting model.  Irrelevant details are filtered out.

C. Planning for the experiment.  Once the purpose is clarified, the instructor presents to the students the apparatus that is available to them.  No instructions are given except for the safety of the students or the equipment.   We believe that students will only understand their experiment if they themselves create their procedure.  The class breaks up into groups of three in order to plan their experiments.

D. Laboratory experiment.  Student groups make their measurements using the available apparatus according to their understanding or lack of it.  As the semester progresses, increasing use is made of MBL techniques.   The instructor may encourage confused groups to use others as resources.  Failure is allowed, as is the opportunity to repeat the experiment as needed.

E. Analysis of experiment.  Upon completion of their experimental plans each lab group analyzes its data, often using microcomputers, and creates models of the phenomenon.  A summary of their experiment and analysis is written on a small whiteboard (24 inches by 32 inches).

F.  Presentation of experimental results.  Selected groups are called upon to present their findings to the rest of the class.  Each group is expected to give a full account about what has been done and express the relationships between the relevant variables in multiple ways (verbal, graphical and algebraic).  The instructor questions the presenters as needed to elicit full explanations and to probe for any inconsistencies which have a bearing on their claims.  Peer questioning is also encouraged and often is very fruitful.  A coherent defense of the group’s representations is the goal. The presentation is graded, and this grade is given to each member of the presenter’s group.  Therefore, the group has a stake in assuring that every member has a thorough understanding of the experiment.

            Contradictory results among the laboratory groups are resolved by argumentation and discussion guided by the instructor.  Groups who discover that they have made experimental blunders may return to the laboratory on their own time.

G. Generalization.  It is often useful to generalize the particular relationships discerned by the students into theoretical statements.  For example, after consensus has been attained among the students that the acceleration of a laboratory cart is directly proportional to the force that was applied to it and inversely proportional to its mass, a generalization to Newton’s Second Law can be made.  The instructor helps the students extract the structure and behavior of the relevant model from the details of the just-completed experiment, and to recognize that this model can be extended to a broader set of phenomena.


II.  Model deployment

A.  Extrapolation and reinforcement.  Carefully selected and designed problems and activities allow students to determine how to deploy their models in a variety of contexts.  Also, they allow students to confront common difficulties in the context of their experimental results. 

      Students work on these tasks in cooperative groups solving all the problems.  From each group one person is then selected by the instructor to present the solution to a given problem to the rest of the class.  Presenters must explicitly articulate their solutions in terms of models developed according to theory based on interpretations of experiments.  During the presentation, if questions arise that the selected presenter cannot answer, other members of the group may offer assistance. Too great a reliance on one's partners, however, may result in a reduction of the group recitation grade.

            These class discussions are exceedingly valuable.  Student are highly motivated to resolve their difficulties during the preparation of their solutions on the whiteboards, so as to make competent presentations to their peers.  They become more articulate in presenting and defending their points of view.  When misconceptions arise, they can be addressed in the context of our models.  Students are encouraged to challenge the presenters, and to suggest alternative solutions to the problem.   In this approach, the instructor assumes the role of "physics coach", guiding the students by asking probing questions to keep the dialog moving in a profitable direction. 

B. Refinement and integration.  Lecture demonstrations and counterexamples help the student refine the model, becoming aware of its limitations.  Reading assignments from textbooks, film or video clips, aid in the integration of the model into its respective theory, bringing the cycle to closure.  Student understanding developed earlier in the cycle provides an experiential and cognitive context which permits more meaningful use of these resources.

2. BSCS 5E Model for Inquiry

The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study people created a structure for Inquiry called the 5Es. It can be adapted for lessons or units in any science subject at any level.

Read about here


Arthur Eisenkraft, science education professor and former HS physics teacher, extended it to 7Es. Read his article here


3. Problem-Based Learning

Minnesota Cooperative Group Problem-solving

IOP Problem-based learning modules

Problem-Based Learning in College Physics


II. Structures for Formative Assessment/Classroom Discussion

1. Peer Instruction

Step 1. Present to students an interesting multiple choice, conceptual question.
Step 2. Students read the question and answer silently, preferably anonymously (using clickers, a stack of colored plastic cups, post-it notes, colored index cards, or other). This takes about 2 minutes.
Step 3. The class views the graph of responses. A good question will have some respondents on every (or nearly every) choice.
Step 4. Students discuss their own answers and the class responses with their neighbors. Students try to use physics to convince their neighbors. The teacher roams and discusses with various groups. Again, this takes about 2 minutes.
Step 5. Students answer again, after agreeing with their neighbors on an answer.
Step 6. The class views a graph of the second set of responses. Good discussions will lead to nearly everybody switching to what the teacher views is the most physically correct answer.
Step 7. A whole-class discussion on the final set of responses. I try to get the students to reach consensus, without needing me to tell them the answer. I almost never give up an answer, but I will say "It's time to move on" when I feel that no more discussion is necessary.

2. My Favorite No

3. Ranking Tasks/TIPERs

I wrote a blog post about using TIPERs. Read it here.

I use these early in instruction, typically before problem-solving. Pass them out, students work silently to rank the items (or do other tasks with TIPERS). Students MUST write their reasoning. Then student groups confer and modify their answers, in order to reach a group/neighbors consensus. Finally, a whole class discussion helps us decide on the best answer. Links to these books are here.


-Rutgers U. Physics Education - many formative assessments for introductory physics

7. Whiteboarding

 - Individual/Group Presentations: "Questions Only"; everybody must be prepared to speak about any aspect of the presentation; group doesn't sit down until everybody is "happy" with the presentation and whiteboard - group corrects their own whiteboard if there are mistakes

 - Circle: Teacher outside, quick graphical/pictorial representations work well; consensus must be reached, don't go on to the next question until all whiteboards look the same

 - Gallery: Walk around and vote on whiteboards with happy/sad faces. Discussion afterwards.

 - Speed-Dating: Start a problem on a whiteboard, and then be forced to move to somebody else's board and continue their work. An invention of Kelly O'Shea. Her blog post about it is here

III. Structures for Elaboration and Evaluation

Practicums like THIS

and THIS

IV. Multiple Representations

V. Online Homework 

UTexas Quest Super Cheap! Great Value!

Marc Reif,
Jun 25, 2014, 5:53 AM
Marc Reif,
Jun 23, 2014, 9:05 PM