In the education field, the science learning process is very much different from the learning of other subjects. The acquisition of knowledge in scientific learning differentiates with the other disciplines of learning (Holmes & Wieman, 2018). The difference is brought about by the fact that science is full of scientific questions whereby their answers cannot be obtained from learning materials such as textbooks or through mere thinking. However, the scientific questions are only answered through laboratory evidence, which entails very careful data collection and data analysis procedures. Physics is a science whereby most of its learning methods are through scientific processes (Holmes & Wieman, 2018). In addition, physics is basically a complex system which involves theories, ideas, hypothesis and observations that are interconnected in a manner that it is not easy to divide inferences that are based on theory from observations that are made directly based on laboratory experiments (Holmes & Wieman, 2018). Therefore, the physics laboratory is the environment which gives any physics class an opportunity to gain evidence and to explore learning scientifically.
In introductory level classes, the physics laboratory should be designed in alignment with the students' goals at the same levels for effective learning and results (Gandhi, Livezey, Zaniewski, Reinholz & Dounas-Frazer, 2016). The laboratory should be designed in a way that assists the learners to comprehend the key role of having direct observations in physics as well as to clearly differentiate between theories based inferences and experiment outcomes (Gandhi et al., 2016). According to Gandhi et al. (2016), based on the argument that most of the learners registered in introductory physics mainly at the high schools and the college levels lack enough tangible experience with daily phenomena to effectively understand the fine interchange connecting observation with the theory construction of physics, physics laboratory should be effectively designed to meet their needs fully as they welcome them to the physics world.
In physics, the educators design the laboratories in a way that gives the students an opportunity to effectively make decisions on their own instead of their instructors making all the decisions for them and only allowing them to choose from the list of decisions made |(Pollard, Hobbs, Stanley, Dounas-Frazer & Lewandowski, 2017). Also, more time is allocated for the laboratory activities in order to give the students more time to be able to reflect on the decisions and end results and to finalize and enhance the effectiveness of the experiments repeatedly (Pollard et al., 2017). A physics laboratory incorporates these two features of own decision making and sufficient time, which highly contribute to the quality, and thus the laboratory is structured and designed in such a way that these features are well catered for.
The physics laboratories are designed in a way that allows Open-endedness among the students, which gives the learners an opportunity to come up with their own experiences (Pollard et al., 2017). The students create their own research questions and provide answers to the identified questions by designing, creating, and carrying out their own set experiments. Open-endedness in the physics laboratories is mainly student-centered rather than being completion-centered (Pollard et al., 2017). In the introductory level classes, laboratory experiments were controlled by time are a great impediment to the learner's understanding of basics in the physics experiments which lays a poor foundation for the students' future performance, exploration and enjoyment of physics as a subject (Pollard et al., 2017). On the other hand, giving the students opportunities to decide on their own and allowing them to take enough time in their experiments has been perceived to be a limitation on the laboratories' capabilities of supporting content learning in relation to the lecture courses (Pollard et al., 2017). It is true that the learners study physics content in the experiments they do, but that is considered to constitute a small part of an average lecture course that is expected to be covered.
Guide or Guidebook Physics Laboratories
In most schools, the physics laboratories are particularly structured in a way that resembles a guide or a guidebook that only ensures coverage of a rational proportion of physics concepts in an association with a specific project (Gandhi et al., 2016). Applying this design in physics allows them to finish a given part fast, acquiring the desired outcomes, which gives them another chance to move on and engage in more experiments connected to the lecture course information (Gandhi et al., 2016). However, for the laboratory experiments or projects that are in need of fast completion, the learners are not required to involve themselves in thinking too much as it is required in content learning. Teaching physics content in the physics laboratory is possible, although it is perceived to consume a lot of time as compared to the other teaching strategies used in covering the same content.
Studio Physics Laboratory
In other introductory learning institutions, the physics laboratory is designed to a studio physics which involves instructions or the directions happening in a particularly organized area around a sequence of less or small experiments (Gandhi et al., 2016). Students in this type of framework continuously progress into the various kinds of activities that involve; conversing with their instructors, experimenting, and researching from online resources. Having this kind of learning space creates a very interactive and much supportive learning environment, which makes learning physics to be fun and full of enjoyment (Gandhi et al., 2016). In addition, studio physics has been evidenced to highly enhance the way the students understand the content positively. On the other hand, the effect of the student's hands-on undertakings has not undergone any separation yet.
Laboratories are unique basing the argument on that they should aim at stimulating a unique, effective thinking (Gandhi et al., 2016). Primarily, abandoning the mere idea of teaching the content alternatively focusing on mainly teaching the essential features of physics thinking is another design being used by the educators in the physics laboratories (Gandhi et al., 2016). However, according to Gandhi et al. (2016), these features have been shown to efficiently correlate with the scientific experimentation process which entails hypotheses formulation and gathering data to test the hypotheses, working out and coming up with more effective ways of enhancing the information standards, evaluating the model's viability by testing the data and finally coming up with a decision concerning the appropriate basis for the given evaluation.
In learning the desirable process skills in physics, which are very crucial for any student intending to excel in physics, it is a must for the student to learn and efficiently apply the thinking skills, which are vital (Quinn et al., 2018). However, for the learners to be able to achieve the desired results, they should be sufficient guidance, which not be too compelling. The whole process should ensure that the learners still make their own decisions independently and that sufficient time is provided in order for them to be able to go back and make changes, particularly on something in case it does not give good results (Quinn et al., 2018). It is essential for each and every experimental scientist to practice the very important skills of learning from non-successful processes and overcoming the obstacles encountered. In order for the learners to fully acquire these skills, a lot of support from the instructors is required, which should aim at impacting the learners positively. For this to be achieved in the physics laboratory, the educational laboratory teaching methods, an equilibrium of agency, and assistance should be included with the goal of teaching the skills of an experimentalist which their effectiveness has been evidently shown.
Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE)
An Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) is another design for an introductory physics lab which is process-focused (Quinn et al., 2018). Learners in this kind of plan mostly operate in collaborative groups in order to advance their explanations of phenomena, which presents itself as a new and surprising (Quinn et al., 2018). As a result of these explanations, experiments are organized to test them. However, the occurrence presents its first emergence in a demonstration form, which is mainly chosen and determined by an educator or performing an easy experiment, which is mainly done by the learners and only in groups (Quinn et al., 2018). Here, the students collaborate and work together with a common aim of developing a record of the possible hypothesis that provides the phenomenon with explanations (Quinn et al., 2018). The process does not end here, but the students normally go ahead, whereby they engage in arranging for more experiments in order to test and ascertain whether each of the available hypotheses can give a description of the phenomenon.
As the given groups fully engage in carrying out each of the experiments, they slowly manage to narrow down the list of reasonable and credible hypotheses (Quinn et al., 2018. The learners' set of experiments, which is normally repeated, then progresses hence creating a physical model. In succeeding activities, the learners are able to plan and carry out more new experiments that aim in making applications and building on the student's recently evolved explanations and also give them guidance on observing new phenomena hence beginning the cycle all again. Performing collaborative experiments is seen to be one of the most effective strategies for enhancing the concepts in physics.
As the learners take part in Investigative Science Learning Environment laboratories, they gain various scientific capabilities which include discovering quantitative and qualitative phenomenal patterns giving suggestions to more than explanations or models, organizing and performing experiments in order to test those models, careful assessment or evaluation of the unpredictability and assumptions, evidence and information representation as well as coming up with clear comparisons linking the uncertain measurements(Quinn et al., 2018). In addition, discussions which are educator-led enable the learners to creatively and fully participate in the scientific physics process. In this, any new idea should, therefore, undergo testing whereby the desired effect should be singled out through the testing process. Although most of these skills are seen to overrun others, there is enough evidence that the approach is good and works very well, yielding effective results.
Despite investigative science learning environment laboratories and the structured quantitative inquiry laboratories varying in their settings, several objectives, especially those involving the implementation details, both of them end up sharing a common basis on the experimentation process (Quinn et al., 2018). The two settings give the learners an opportunity to make decisions, execute the decisions followed by repetition with the main aim of making data as well as model improvements.
Structured Quantitative Inquiry Physics Laboratories
Structured quantitative inquiry physics laboratories are mainly centered experimentation as well as decision making, which are performed repeatedly with the primary objective being to evolve the learner's quantitative...
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