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LA Lesson: Two Approaches to Learning Physics / CLASS Survey

October 20, 2015

Last night in LA seminar, we did my “Two Approaches to Learning Physics / CLASS Survey” lesson, which I’ve described here and here. This is one of the few lessons for the LA course that I’ve completely developed from scratch-rather than adopting, adapting, etc.

The basic gist is that students read David Hammer’s “Two Approaches to Learning Physics” in TPT. This paper describes two students -Liza and Ellen-who approach learning physics differently. In class, we categorize survey statements from the CLASS to decide whether it’s a statement that Liza would agree to or whether its a statement that Ellen would agree to, or both, or neither. Ahead of time, I color code the statements (red, green, and black), for red is statements that experts disagree with, green is statements that experts agree with, and black is statements that there is no expert consensus for. The statements are on big 8×11 papers that we tape to a huge Venn Diagram made on the front whiteboard. Students fill the Venn Diagram as we go.

This year, after small group work, I had students do gallery walk over the large Venn Diagram and *star* any statements that they would have placed somewhere differently. This made the whole-class discussion much more meaningful than last year. While we talked about where to place the statements, we had a lot of conversations about who students think they are more like, whether it’s better to be a Liza or an Ellen, about how it might be best to draw from both Ellen and Liza, about whether people start off as Liza and become more Ellen, about why Ellen is more expert like (but maybe less likely to succeed), about why courses tend to create more Lizas. We also had conversations about talking about Liza in a positive light, describing her as goal oriented, organized, aware of what needs to be done to succeed, rather than simply, “not interested in understanding”, “only cares about grades”. These conversations, of course, is the goal of the activity–not to decide where the pieces of paper go, but to reflect on how and why students approach physics differently.

This year, after discussion, Ellen was almost all “green” statements, Liza was almost all “red” statements. “Black” statements were mixed. Most black statements we ended up throwing out as “indeterminate”–that is we can’t say whether Liza or Ellen would agree or disagree without more information about them. I don’t tell students what the colors mean until the end.

Class this year ended with me showing and talking students graphs from various CLASS research showing that students’ learning correlates (from FCI) with CLASS scores; and graphs that show that a typical outcome is that students attitudes worsen. Students are generally interested in this and have questions, but next year I want to have students take CLASS before coming to class to save those 15 minutes. Then do a JigSaw with the research graphs, instead of presenting to the students.

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