8. Inquiry of Lower Complexity

Abstract: Teaching, as it is traditionally performed in introductory physics courses, rarely follows the general procedures classical scientists have used to make discoveries – observation, experimentation, generalization, verification, and communication. Content is often emphasized at the expense of process. If we are to educate students in the processes of science, then we must teach both product and process. For many generations, students have been expected to learn the processes of physics through osmosis, too often with the use of cookbook verification labs. Effectively teaching the processes of physics should be based on inquiry-oriented practices and should include direct instruction when necessary. Unfortunately, teachers without considerable inquiry-oriented lab experience at the introductory level can be flummoxed when asked to lead inquiry-oriented lab sessions. This article presents, in a more formal fashion, some of the inquiry approaches that are best taught in the laboratory setting by actually conducting scientific inquiry.

Characteristics of Science – Pure Observation and Experimentation – Generic Experimental Design – Experiments with Systems of Different Complexities – Experiments with Lower Complexity Systems – Example of a Lower Complexity System