General Physics Colloquium - Dr. Natasha G. Holmes: 'Re-thinking intro physics labs: Teaching and assessing critical thinking'
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General Physics Colloquium
Speaker: Dr. Natasha G. Holmes, Stanford University
Re-thinking intro physics labs: Teaching and assessing critical thinking
The goals of instructional lab courses have been highly debated for decades. While many courses still focus on reinforcing physics content (which is also presented in lectures and other tutorial sessions), it is clear that labs are a unique space for students to learn about how experiments work in physics. In my talk, I will present work on both of these aspects. I will describe a recent study that evaluates whether labs contribute measurably to how students learn physics content. I will also describe an introductory physics lab course structure that focuses on developing students’ experimentation and critical thinking skills. The lab structure relies on iterative cycles of making, interpreting, and acting on comparisons between data and models. By focusing the iterations on improving measurements, students explore the limits of physical models in the real world and engage in the evaluation and refinement of these models. I will describe our controlled research study that implemented and evaluated this framework, which found that students adopted these behaviors and continued to use them even after instruction to do so had been removed.
Dr. Natasha G. Holmes is a postdoctoral researcher in the Physics Department at Stanford University. She received her B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Guelph and her PhD in Physics at the University of British Columbia. For her dissertation work, she developed and evaluated a pedagogical framework for teaching and learning in physics lab courses that focuses on the iterative and reflective nature of experimentation. She focuses on developing effective ways to assess students’ critical thinking and experimentation skills in these courses, both through evaluating students’ lab work and also through the development of a diagnostic assessment. She is currently working to adapt that framework to other lab courses and contexts (including upper-level courses in physics and chemical engineering) and to further evaluate what is and is not learned in different structures of lab courses and in undergraduate research. She is also interested in how the hands-on and collaborative nature of lab courses interacts with issues of gender and diversity.
Coffee and cake will be served at 15:05