Today I feel much more comfortable with the physics modelling approach to labs. What initially attracted me to the approach is the fact that students create meaning through real experience. Given that real experience is constrained by the laws of nature, and that they are guided through this experience by an instructor whose intuitive view of nature is grounded in Newtonian mechanics, students can have a great experience watching their old ideas change.
What initially confused me was determining when in the lab this should happen. After much feedback from colleagues and the “Twitterverse” , I realized that having students plot their results on whiteboards and explain their ideas is the key to their learning.
Specifically, students obtain a linear plot of their buggy lab data, calculate the slope and intercept, and explain what these mean “in real life”.
The key consideration that I failed to grasp earlier is that it doesn’t matter if they get the right answer. In fact THE WRONG ANSWER IS MORE USEFUL.
I have realize that whiteboarding is formative assessment, that wrong answers are data, and the resulting discussion leads us where we want to go.