RE: IRB Review Proposal
Title: Using Motion Probes to Enhance Students’ Understanding of Position vs Time
Principal Investigator (PI): Jefferson Hartman. My faculty advisor is Dr. Pamela
Redmond. I am currently a science teacher at Martinez Junior High School and graduate
researcher with the goal of conducting a study with my eight grade students in the Fall of
Motion probes and accompanied software allow students to simultaneously
perform a motion and see an accurate position vs time graph produced on a computer
screen. Recent studies note that microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) experiences are
helping students understand the relationships between physical events and graphs
representing those events (Barclay, 1986; Mokros and Tinker, 1987; Thornton, 1986;
Tinker, 1986). This thesis will utilize Vernier motion probes and a WISE 4.0 project
called Graphing Stories, which will allow students to experience the connection between
a physical event and its graphic representation. Research has revealed both positive
correlation and no correlation between real-time graphing of a physical event and
improved interpreting graph skills as compared to traditional motion graph lessons.
Luckily today’s students are somewhat enthusiastic about technology. I can
harness this energy by utilizing the technology of WISE 4.0 and the Vernier motion
probe in order to test if a microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) approach will increase
student understanding of position vs time graphs. I am responsible for teaching
approximately 160 eighth grade students force and motion. Web-based Inquiry Science
Environment (WISE) is the common variable in a partnership between Martinez Junior
High School and UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley has provided software, Vernier probes,
Mac computers and support with WISE 4.0. This unique opportunity to coordinate with
researchers from UC Berkeley is one reason I chose this project. The other reason is to
prove to myself and others that Graphing Stories is valuable learning tool. Graphing
Stories embeds this MBL approach without making it the soul purpose of the project.
Students are immersed in a virtual camping trip that involves encountering a bear on a
hiking trip. Graphing Stories seamlessly supports the Vernier motion probe and software
allowing students to physically walk and simultaneous graph the approximate motion of
the hike. An added bonus is that students can instantly share their graph with other
students who are working on the project at the same time.
My thesis will test the hypothesis that students will have a better understanding of
graphing concepts after working with Vernier motion probes Graphing Stories and than
the students who work without the motion probes. Both groups will take a pretest and a
post test. I will statistically compare the difference in the results between the pre and
post tests of the same group and the difference in results between the post tests of each
group. The data collection potion of the project will take approximately 7 school days to
A graph depicting a physical event allows a glimpse of trends which cannot be
easily recognized in a table of the same data (Beicher 1994). After teaching science to
eighth graders for several years most teachers will notice that many students consistently
have trouble with graphing, specifically line graphs. Most students understand the
concept of the x and y axis and plotting points, but do not make sense of what the line
they created actually means. Students struggle with graphs for several reasons. The first
reason is insufficient exposure to graphing type tasks throughout their earlier education.
The California State Science Standards require that 8th
grade students understand slope.
This is a mathematics standard that should be included before students reach 8th
fact, students are not taught slope until they take Algebra. Some students take Algebra in
grade and many never take it at all. The second reason is that students are not ready to
interpret graphs until they are taught slope. Students often lack the understanding of the
vocabulary needed to describe the meaning of a graph. Terms like direct relationship,
inverse relationship, horizontal and vertical all seem to be straightforward words, but
continue to be absent from students’ repertoire. A person who creates and interprets
graphs frequently will become comfortable using the appropriate descriptive terminology.
A student with little experience graphing must put forth significant effort in simply
translating the vocabulary. The last reason students struggle with graphing is that they
are not accustomed to thinking in an abstract way. The most important cognitive changes
during early adolescence relate to the increasing ability of children to think abstractly,
consider the hypothetical as well as the real, consider multiple dimensions of a problem
at the same time, and reflect on themselves and on complicated problems (Keating 1990).
Eight grade students are 12-13 years old; they have not necessarily developed this
thinking process. Interpreting graphs requires the observer to look at a pattern of marks
and make generalizations. Again Algebra is the first time many students are required to
think in this manner.
Computer-supported learning environments make it easier for students to propose
their own research focus, produce their own data, and continue their inquiry as new
questions arise, thus replicating scientific inquiry more realistically (Kubieck 2005).
WISE 4.0 Graphing Stories is a computer-supported learning environment that works
with a motion probe. Students produce there own data by moving in front of the device.
This data is simultaneously represented in a graphic format. Students will be asked to
replicate the motion by changing the scale of their movements. Along with producing a
graph of their motion they are also asked to match their motion to a given graph. Some
of these graphs are impossible to create, which in turn promotes direct inquiry. The goal
of Graphing Stories is to teach students how to interpret graphs utilizing an inquiry-based
strategy in computer-supported environment.
This study will collect quantitative data. The data collected will be analyzed with
a descriptive statistics, specifically the t- test. The null hypothesis states that there is no
correlation between students using the motion probes and a better understanding of
position vs time graphs as compared to students not using the motion probes. There will
be two samples composed of approximately 70 students; one group will work through
Graphing Stories utilizing the motion probes and the other group will not utilize motion
probes. Both groups of students will take a pre test composed of position vs time
graphing and general graphing questions. Using the mean score and standard deviation
from each group the t-test will test for a significant difference in scores. Hopefully the
pre test will show no significant difference as it is ideal to start with two groups having
equal experience and knowledge of motion graphs. After the groups have worked
through Graphing Stories the post test composed of nearly the same questions will be
given. Again a simple t-test will be used to find any differences in the mean score of
each group. In this case it is hoped that the scores will be significantly difference so the
null hypothesis can be rejected. The four classes of eight grade students can not be
randomized because of scheduling issues. It is assumed that all classes have the same
knowledge of motion graphs. All students in those four classes will be included in the
study provided I can get assent. The study will take place in the PI’s classroom (D108) at
Martinez Junior High School. A separate data collection person or a person to score the
pre and post tests can not be hired. Therefore, those tasks must be performed by the PI.
This is not the ideal situation, but necessary for the study to be successful. In order to
protect confidentiality, students’ names will not be connected to the test score. The only
information collected beside actual test answers will be the student’s period.
This research study provides minimum risk and blends perfectly with the class
curriculum. Although there is no remuneration for the participants, it is assumed that
students will be rewarded with knowledge growth. Consent will be obtained by using a
form called the Student Assent to Participate in Research/Parent Permission.
Only the PI will have access to the data and it will be collected and contained in
room D108. After the data has been collected and analyzed, the PI will allow the non
motion probe students to explore with motion probes so that their knowledge base is not
Barclay, W.L. (1986). Graphing misconceptions and possible remedies using
microcomputer-based labs. Paper presented at the Seventh National Educational
Computing Conference, San Diego, CA June, 1986.
Beichner, R. J. (1994). Testing student interpretation of kinematics graphs. American
Journal of Physics, 62, 750-762.
Keating, D.P. (1990) Adolescent thinking. In S.S. Feldman and G.R. Elliott (Eds.), At
the threshold: The developing adolescent.( pp. 54–89). Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Kubicek, J. (2005). "Inquiry-based learning, the nature of science, and computer
technology: New possibilities in science education." Canadian Journal of
Learning and Technology. 31.
Mokros, J. and Tinker, R. (1987). The impact of microcomputer-based labs on children’s
ability to interpret graphs. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24, 369-383.
Thornton, R. (1986). Tools for scientific thinking: microcomputer-based laboratories for
the naive science learner. Paper presented at the Seventh National Educational
Computing Conference, San Diego, CA June, 1986.
Tinker, R. (1986). Modeling and MBL: software tools for science. Paper presented at the
Seventh National Educational Computing Conference, San Diego, CA June, 1986.
College of Education
RE: Student Assent to Participate in Research/Parent Permission
Principal Investigator (PI): Jefferson Hartman
Phone: 925-313-0480 Ext. 1408
Project Title: Using Motion Probes to Enhance Students’ Understanding of Position vs
Dear Student and Parent:
I am a graduate researcher in the Department of Education at Touro University. I am also
your child’s science teacher at Martinez Junior High School. As part of my graduate
studies, you are invited to participate in a study which as its main purpose will analyze if
student’s use of motion probes will increase their understanding of motion graphs.
If you choose to participate in this research study, I will use the scores you earn on a pre
and post test (consisting of about 10 questions regarding position vs time graphs and
other graphing concepts). For purposes of the research, student names and any other
identifiers will not be connected to the scores. This will allow the PI to report the
information in statistical analysis with no direct connection to specific students. The
information will be confidential and only accessible by the PI.
Your decision to participate is totally voluntary. Participation in the research study will
not interfere with your course grade and presents minimal risk. It is hoped that the
research will reveal an effective technique for teaching students to understand motion
graphs. You may choose to withdraw from the study at any time without penalty.
If you have any questions about the research study please contact Jefferson Hartman at
the above phone number or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org before signing
this from. If you have any concerns about your treatment as a human subject, you may
also contact the Office for Protection of Human Subjects
I AGREE DO NOT AGREE (circle one) to participate in this research study
Participant’s Name (please print) ______________________________
Participant’s Signature ______________________________________Date: __________
Parent/Guardian Signature ___________________________________Date:__________