Using Motion Probes to Enhance Students’ Understanding of Position vs. Time Graphs A Project Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Education TOURO UNIVERSITY – CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of MASTERS OF ARTS in EDUCATION With Emphasis in Educational Technology By Jefferson Hartman December 2010
Using Motion Probes to Enhance Students’ Understanding of Position vs. Time Graphs In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the MASTERS OF ARTS DEGREE In EDUCATION BY Jefferson Hartman TOURO UNIVERSITY – CALIFORNIA December 2010Under the guidance and approval of the committee and approval by all the members, thisstudy has been accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree.Approved:______________________________ ___________________Pamela A. Redmond, Ed.D. Date______________________________ ___________________Jim O’Connor, Ph.D, Dean Date
TOURO UNIVERSITY CALIFORNIA Graduate School of Education Author ReleaseName: Jefferson HartmanThe Touro University Graduate School of Education has permission to use my MA thesisor field project as an example of acceptable work. This permission includes the right toduplicate the manuscript as well a permits the document to be checked out from theCollege Library or School website.Signature: ___________________________________Date: _______________________________________
Motion probes and accompanied software allow students to simultaneouslyperform a motion and see an accurate position vs. time graph produced on a computerscreen. Studies note that microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) experiences arehelping students understand the relationships between physical events and graphsrepresenting those events (Barclay, 1986; Mokros and Tinker, 1987; Thornton, 1986;Tinker, 1986). This study utilized Vernier motion probes and a WISE 4.0 project calledGraphing Stories, which allowed students to experience the connection between aphysical event and its graphic representation. As a basis for this study, the researcheragreed with Kozhevnikov and Thornton (2006) when they suggested that the strongemphasis MBL curricula place on visual/spatial representations has the potential not onlyto facilitate students’ understanding of physics concepts, but also to enhance their spatialvisualization skills.
i Table of ContentsList of Figures iiiList of Tables ivCHAPTER I 1 Introduction 1 Statement ofthe Problem 2 Backgroundand Need 3 Purpose of theStudy 4 ResearchQuestions 5 Definition ofTerms 5 Summary 6CHAPTER II 7 Introduction 7 TheoreticalRational 10
ii Inquiry-basedlearning 11 InterpretingGraphs 15 Probeware 20 Summary 28CHAPTER III 30 Introduction 30 Background and Development of the Study 32 Componentsof the Study 33 Methodology 35 Results37 Analysis 42 Summary 44CHAPTER IV 46
iii Introduction 46 StudyOutcomes 47 ProposedAudience, Procedures and Implementation Timeline 48 Evaluation ofthe Study 51 Summary 51REFERENCES 52APPENDIX A 58APPENDIX B 61
v List of FiguresFigure 1: Line of best fit for land speed records.......................................................18....................................................................................................................................Figure 2: A distance versus time graph for two cars................................................21Figure 3: The wrong way to represent a walk to and from a specific location.........23Figure 4: The right way to represent a walk to and from a specific location...........23Figure 5: Frequency distribution of the pre-test scores............................................39Figure 6: Frequency distribution of the post-test scores...........................................39Figure 7: Distance time graph for student investigation...........................................44Figure 8: Path of walker............................................................................................44
viList of TablesTable 1: Frequency Distribution of Responses to the Questions Regarding the Usefulness of Motion Probes......................................................................40Table 2: Frequency Distribution of Responses to the Questions Regarding Motion Probes and Student Engagement.................................................................41Table 3: Frequency Distribution of Responses to the Questions Regarding the Advantage of a Motion Probe.....................................................................41
Chapter I Middle school teachers always search for new, exciting ways to engage theiradolescent audience. International comparison research showed that although U.S.fourth-grade students compare favorably, eighth-grade students fall behind their foreignpeers, particularly in their mastery of complex, conceptual mathematics, a cause forconcern about the preparation of students for careers in science (Roschelle et al., 2007).Producing and interpreting position vs. time graphs is particularly difficult because theyhave little to no prior knowledge on the subject. Nicolaou, Nicolaidou, Zacharias, &Constantinou (2007) claimed that despite the rhetoric that is promoted in manyeducational systems, the reality is that most science teachers routinely fail to helpstudents achieve a better understanding of graphs at the elementary school level. There is also a knowledge gap that has developed between the students who are inalgebra and students who are not. Algebra students have experience with coordinates,slope, rate calculations and linear functions. By the time motion lessons begin manystudents have had zero experience with linear graphs which make it nearly impossible forthem to interpret. When introducing motion a considerable amount of time is spent withrate and speed calculations. Algebra students excel and the others struggle. Withoutunderstanding rate and proportionality, students cannot master key topics andrepresentations in high school science, such as laws (e.g., F= ma, F = -kx), graphs (e.g.,of linear and piecewise linear functions), and tables (Roschelle et al., 2007). By sparkingtheir interest with technology, the knowledge gap between students regarding graphingconcepts should be reduced by the time they reach high school.
2Statement of the Problem After teaching for several years, the researcher came to the conclusion that inorder for students to understand graphing concepts and combat graphing misconceptions,they must start with a firm foundation, practice and be assessed often. Both the degree ofunderstanding and the retention of this knowledge seemed to diminish only after a shortperiod of time when taught with traditional paper/pencil techniques. The researcherchose to concentrate on utilizing motion probes with simultaneous graphing via computersoftware because it is anticipated that this hands-on approach will provide a solidfoundation which in turn will reinforce knowledge retention. Sokoloff, Laws andThornton (2007) stated that students can discover motion concepts for themselves bywalking in front of an ultrasonic motion sensor while the software displays position,velocity and/or acceleration in real time. Simply using this MBL type approach may notbe enough. Preliminary evidence showed that while the use of the MBL tools to dotraditional physics experiments may increase the students’ interest, such activities do notnecessarily improve student understanding of fundamental physics concepts (Thornton &Sokoloff, 1990). Lapp and Cyrus (2000) warned that although the literature suggestedbenefits from using MBL technology, we must also consider problems that arise if we donot pay attention to how the technology is implemented. Bryan (2006) stated a general“rule of thumb” is that technology should be used in the teaching and learning of scienceand mathematics when it allows one to perform investigations that either would not bepossible or would not be as effective without its use.
3Background and Need Much of the research suggested an improvement in student understanding ofgraphing using the MBL approach; yet warn how the technique is implemented. TheMBL approach refers to any technique that connects a physical event to immediategraphic representation. Some studies indicated that without proper precautions,technology can become an obstacle to understanding (Bohren, 1988; Lapp, 1997;Nachmias and Linn, 1987). Beichner compared how a motion reanimation (video) with“real” motion and simultaneous graphing. Beichner (1990) stated that Brasell (1987) andothers have demonstrated the superiority of microcomputer-based labs, this may indicatethat visual juxtaposition is not the relevant variable producing the educational impact ofthe real-time MBL. Bernard (2003) reluctantly suggested that technology leads to betterlearning. Bernard advocated that it is important to focus on the cognitive aspects as wellas the technical aspects. Although many researchers could not find conclusive evidenceto say that MBL techniques improved student understanding of graphing concepts, theresearcher believed that most would agree that it does. This study attempted to show thatthe MBL approach works. This study will also bring to light the general need for students to utilizedeveloping technologies which in turn prepares them for future uncreated jobs.Roschelle et al. (2000) stated that schools today face ever-increasing demands in theirattempts to ensure that students are well equipped to enter the workforce and navigate acomplex world. Roschelle et al. indicated that computer technology can help supportlearning, and that it is especially useful in developing the higher-order skills of criticalthinking, analysis, and scientific inquiry.
4Purpose of the Study Luckily, students are somewhat enthusiastic about technology. This energy canbe harnessed by utilizing the technology of WISE 4.0 (Web Inquiry Based Environment)and the Vernier motion probe in order to test if an MBL approach increased studentunderstanding of position vs. time graphs. The researcher is responsible for teachingapproximately 160 eighth grade students force and motion. WISE is the commonvariable in a partnership between a public middle school in Northern California (MJHS)and UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley has provided software, Vernier probes, Macintoshcomputers and support with WISE 4.0. This unique opportunity to coordinate withresearchers from UC Berkeley is one reason this study was chosen. The other reason wasto prove that Graphing Stories is a valuable learning tool. Graphing Stories embeddedthis MBL approach without making it the soul purpose of the project. Students areimmersed in a virtual camping trip that involves encountering a bear on a hiking trip.Graphing Stories seamlessly supports the Vernier motion probe and software allowingstudents to physically walk and simultaneously graph the approximate motion of the hike.An added bonus is that students can instantly share their graph with other students whoare working on the project at the same time. This study tested the hypothesis that students will have a better understanding ofgraphing concepts after working with Vernier motion probes and Graphing Stories thanthe students who work without the motion probes. Both groups took a pre-test and apost-test. The researcher statistically compared the difference in the results between thepre and post-tests of the same group and the difference in results between the post-tests of
5each group. The data collection portion of the project took approximately 7 school daysto complete.Research Questions This project had two main research questions: • Does an MBL approach increases student understanding of graphing concepts? • Does motion probe usage increases student engagement?Along with the main research questions came several secondary goals which included:utilize the unique opportunity of the partnership between UC Berkeley and MJHS,reinforce the idea that the project Graphing Stories is an inquiry based learning tool andutilize students’ enthusiasm for technology. The hypothesis as stated in the purpose of the project section above addressed theresearch question regarding how the MBL approach increases students understanding ofgraphing concepts. A student survey named Student Perception on Use of Motion Probeshelped to answer the research question regarding how motion probes increase studentengagement.Definition of TermsGraphing stories: a WISE 4.0 project that helps students understand that every graph hasa story to tell (WISE – Web-based Inquiry Science Environment, 1998-2010).MBL: microcomputer-based laboratory. The microcomputer-based laboratory utilizes acomputer, a data collection interface, electronic probes, and graphing software, allowingstudents to collect, graph, and analyze data in real-time (Tinker, 1986).
6Vernier motion probes: a motion detector that ultrasonically measures distance to theclosest object and creates real-time motion graphs of position, velocity and acceleration(Vernier Software and Technology, n.d.).WISE: Web-based Inquiry Science Environment is a free online science learningenvironment supported by the National Science Foundation (WISE – Web-based InquiryScience Environment, 1998-2010).Summary The MBL approach has a positive effect on students’ understanding of graphingconcepts if used correctly. According the NSTA (1999), “Microcomputer BasedLaboratory Devices (MBLs) should be used to permit students to collect and analyzedata as scientists do, and perform observations over long periods of time enablingexperiments that otherwise would be impractical”. It was hoped that students who useVernier motion probes in connection with Graphing Stories will show a deeperunderstanding of graphic concepts than students who did not use the motion probes. Thisstudy reinforced the unique relationship between UC Berkeley and MJHS. The use oftechnology will lessen the knowledge gap between algebra and non-algebra students andtheir graphing skills. In general, research suggested that technology is not a panacea andneeds to be accompanied by thoughtful planning and meaningful purpose.
7 Chapter II A graph depicting a physical event allows a glimpse of trends which cannot beeasily recognized in a table of the same data (Beichner, 1994). After teaching science toeighth graders for several years most teachers will notice that many students consistentlyhave trouble with graphing, specifically line graphs. Most students understand theconcept of the x and y axis and plotting points, but do not make sense of what the linethey created actually means. Many students struggle with interpreting graphs for severalreasons. The first reason is insufficient exposure to graphing type tasks throughout theirearlier education. The California State Science Standards require that 8th grade studentsunderstand the concept of slope. This is a mathematics standard that should be addressedbefore students reach 8th grade, however, in practice, most students are not taught slopeuntil they take algebra either in 8th or 9th grade. Some students never take algebra at all.This is a significant issue considering that there is a direct relationship betweenunderstanding the concept of slope and interpreting graphs. Students often lack theunderstanding of the vocabulary needed to describe the meaning of a graph. Terms likedirect relationship, inverse relationship, horizontal and vertical all seem to bestraightforward words, but continue to be absent from students’ repertoire. A person whocreates and interprets graphs frequently will become comfortable using the appropriatedescriptive terminology. A student with little experience graphing must put forthsignificant effort in simply translating the vocabulary. The last reason students strugglewith graphing is that they are not accustomed to thinking in an abstract way. The mostimportant cognitive changes during early adolescence relate to the increasing ability ofchildren to think abstractly, consider the hypothetical as well as the real, consider
8multiple dimensions of a problem at the same time, and reflect on themselves and oncomplicated problems (Keating, 1990). Eighth grade students are 12-13 years old; theyhave not necessarily developed this thinking process. Interpreting graphs requires theobserver to look at a pattern of marks and make generalizations. Again, Algebra is thefirst time many students are required to think in this manner. Adolescents taught in middle school are perfect candidates for inquiry-basedlearning projects because of their natural curiosity. According to the National Institutesof Health (2005), inquiry-based instruction offers an opportunity to engage studentinterest in scientific investigation, sharpen critical-thinking skills, distinguish sciencefrom pseudoscience, increase awareness of the importance of basic research, andhumanize the image of scientists. As a student acquiring new knowledge, one mightwonder if they will ever use the information they are learning at a particular time. Forexample, how is learning the foot structure of a shore bird of Humboldt County going tohelp in the future? This is a learning process that requires one to look for patterns andtransfer context from one situation into another. Learning certain facts through lab andfield work directly helps with upcoming assessments. But perhaps even more important,it creates a conceptual framework that is transferable to other fields of science. Manystudents have limited experiences in their life which, in turn, limits the prior knowledgethey bring to the classroom. Novice science thinkers seek answers that reflect theireveryday life which may not resemble valid science concepts. Involving students in ascience project or experiment forces them to learn the basic vocabulary and concepts butalso immerses them in the process of asking questions, making hypotheses, findingevidence, supporting claims, and interpreting and analyzing results. After students
9develop these inquiry skills they will be better able to solve problems based on empiricalevidence and avoid misconceptions. Misconceptions often arise when students are asked to interpret graphs. Studentshave trouble extracting information from graphs because everyday experiences have notprepared them to conceptualize. New technology called probeware (sometimesanalogous to MBL) helps students make connections between real experiences and datapresented in graphical form. According to the Concord Consortium (n.d.), probewarerefers to educational applications of probes, interfaces and software used for real-timedata acquisition, display, and analysis with a computer or calculator. By using the MBLapproach, as explained in chapter 1, the drudgery of producing graphs by hand arevirtually eliminated. When researchers (Bernard, 2003; Lapp and Cyrus, 2000; Thornton and Sokoloff,1990) compared real-time graphing of a physical event and traditional motion graphinglessons, two findings emerged. There was some proof of a positive correlation betweenreal-time graphing and improved comprehension of graphing concepts as compared totraditional methods of teaching motion graphing (Thornton & Sokoloff, 1990). However,there was also some evidence suggesting that there was no correlation between the real-time graphing teaching method and improved comprehension of graphing concepts(Bernard, 2003). This evidence lends well to future research that answers the question ofwhich teaching method equips the students with the best skills to interpret therelationship between physical events and the graphs that represent them.
10Theoretical Rational The “real” world manifests itself through a combination of all the events a personhas experienced. This idea is explained by Piaget’s (1980) learning theory calledconstructivism. According to Piaget, “fifty years of experience taught us that knowledgedoes not result from a mere recording of observations without a structuring activity on thepart of the subject” (p. 23). This statement gives reason for a teacher to design theircurriculum in a way that guides the students into a cognitive process of discovery throughexperimentation. With the teacher acting as a facilitator, students are encouraged tomake their own inferences and conclusions with the use of their prior knowledge. ForPiaget (1952, 1969) the development of human intellect proceeds through adaptation andorganization. Adaptation is a process of assimilation and accommodation, where, on theone hand, external events are assimilated into thoughts and, on the other, new andunusual mental structures are accommodated into the mental environment (Boudourides,2003). Assimilation refers to the integration of new knowledge into what is alreadyknown. Accommodation refers to making room for new knowledge without a significantchange. There is a need for accommodation when current experience cannot beassimilated into existing schema (Piaget, 1977). It is a teacher’s job to make surestudents do not fill the gaps of knowledge with incorrect thoughts while learning from a“self-discovery” lesson. In order to prevent students from developing misconceptions theteacher must make sure students do not miss or misunderstand significant events or attachimportance to information that is not meaningful to the study in progress. This idea of experimentation can be thought of as inquiry-based learning.Inquiry-based learning is a pedagogy of constructivism. Students develop a genuine idea
11of the “real” world when they make discoveries on their own rather than have a teacherlecture to them. According to Kubieck (2005), inquiry-based learning, when authentic,complements the constructivist learning environment because it allows the individualstudent to tailor their own learning process.Inquiry-based Learning Inquiry is probably the most chosen word to describe the goal of science.Inquiry- based learning is often characterized by the types of procedures used.Chiappeta (1997) described strategies and techniques that have been used successfully byscience teachers: asking questions, science process skills, discrepant events, inductiveand deductive activites, information gathering and problem solving. By askingmeaningful questions, teachers cause students to think critically and ask their ownquestions. Processing skills like observing, classifying, measuring, inferring, predicting,and hypothesizing help a student construct knowledge and communicate information.Chiappeta stated that a discrepant event puzzles students, causing them to wonder whythe event occurred as it did. Piaget (1971) reinforced the idea by stating that puzzlementcan stimulate students to engage in reasoning and the desire to find out. In inductiveactivities, students discover a concept by first encountering its attributes and naming itlater. The exact opposite is a deductive activity which first describes a concept followedby supportive examples. Much of the prior knowledge needed to ask those importantinquiry questions comes from gathering information through research. Presenting ateenager with a problem solving activity engages them in authetic investigation. Like Chiappeta (1997), Colburn (2000) agreed that inquiry-based learning is awidely accepted idea in the world of science education. Colburn reported his own
12definition of inquiry-based instruction as “the creation of a classroom where students areengaged in essentially open-ended, students centered, hands-on activites” (p. 42).Colburn explained that even though inquiry is important, many teachers are not using it.He also gave ideas of what inquiry looked like in the classroom. Some reasons whyteachers do not use inquiry include: unclear on the meaning of inquiry, inquiry onlyworks with high achievers, inadequate preparation and difficulty managing. Colburn andChiappeta identified similar inquiry-based instruction approaches: • Structured inquiry provides students with an investigation without divulging the expected outcome. • Guided inquiry is similar to structured inquiry except students come up with their own procedure for solving the problem. • Open inquiry takes it one step farther and asks students to come up with their own question. Learning cycle is similar to deductive activity explained above. Inquiry-based learning is suitable for all levels of students because inquiry tendsto be more successful with concepts that are “easier”. Colburn (2000) acknowledged thatto help all middle level students benefit from inquiry-based intructions, the scienceeducation research community recommended: • orienting activites toward concrete, observable concepts • centering activites around questions that students can answer directly via investigation • emphasizing activites using materials and situation familiar to students • chooing activites suited to students’ skills and knowledge to ensure success
13In terms of being prepared and managing for inquiry-based instruction, teachers musttrust the process, take their time and allow students to adjust to open-ended activities.The proposed study is a structured inquiry activity where students are faced with learningthe abstract concept of graphing by doing simple activites like moving forward andbackwards in front of a motion probe while observing the corresponding graph beingcreated. Colburn (2000) as well as Huber and Moore (2001) explained how to develophands-on activities into inquiry-based lessons. Huber and Moore contended that thestrategies involve (a) discrepant events to engage students in direct inquiry; (b) teacher-supported brainstroming activites to facilitate students in planning investigations; (c)effective written job performance aids to provide structure and support; (d) requirementsthat students provide a product of their research, which usually includes a classpresentation and a graph; and (e) class discussion and writing activites to facilitatestudents in reflecting on their activites and learning. Chiappeta (1997) had the similaridea of utilizing discrepant events, like balancing a ping pong ball above a blow drier, toprompt student puzzlement and questioning. Huber and Moore suggested using thesestrategies because the activites presented in textbooks are step by step instructions, whichis not characteristic of true inquiry-based learning. All of the literature above supported the idea that inquiry is widely accepted in thescience community, but also suggested that it is not being used effectively. It outlinedwhat inquiry-based lessons should look like and gave strategies on how to utilize thelearning theory. Deters (2005) reported on how many high school chemistry teachersconduct inquiry based labs, “Of the 571 responses to the online survey from high school
14chemistry teachers all over the U.S., 45 percent indicated that they did not use inquirylabs in their classrooms” (p. 1178). This seemed to be a low number even though theNational Science Standards include inquiry standards. Teachers gave reasons for notusing inquiry: loss of control, safety issues, used more class time, fear of abetting studentmisconceptions, spent more time grading labs and students have many complaints.Deters reported on students opinions regarding inquiry-based labs by collectingcomments from student portfolios from an private urban high school. The studentsconcerns included: more effort and thinking are required and the fear of being in control.The positive student aspects included: develop mastery of material, learn the scientificprocess, learn chemistry concepts, improves ability to correct or explain mistakes,increased communication skills, learn procedural organization and logic, and betterperformance on non-inquiry labs. Since planning and conducting inquiry-based labsrequires a significant effort, conducting them can be overwhelming. Deters suggestedthat if students perform even a few inquiry-based labs each year throughout their middleschool and high school careers, by graduation they will be more confident, critical-thinking people who are unafraid of “doing science”. As part of the proposed study,students were required to reflect on the graphing activity by reporting on their perceivedsuccess. Computer-supported learning environments make it easier for students to proposetheir own research focus, produce their own data, and continue their inquiry as newquestions arise, thus replicating scientific inquiry more realistically (Kubieck, 2005).WISE 4.0 Graphing Stories is a computer-supported learning environment that workswith a motion probe. Students produced their own data by moving in front of the device.
15This data was simultaneously represented in a graphic format. Students were asked toreplicate the motion by changing the scale of their movements. Along with producing agraph of their motion they are also asked to match their motion to a given graph. Somegraphs were impossible to create, which in turn promotes direct inquiry. The goal of theGraphing Stories program was to teach students how to interpret graphs utilizing aninquiry-based strategy in computer-supported environment.Interpreting Graphs Drawing and interpreting graphs is a crucial skill in understanding many topics inscience, especially physics. McDermott, Rosenquist and van Zee (1987) stated that to beable to apply the powerful tool of graphical analysis to science, students must know howto interpret graphs in terms of the subject matter represented. The researchers wereconvinced that many graphing problems were not necessarily caused by poor mathematicskills. Because most of students in the study had no trouble plotting points andcomputing slopes, other factors must be responsible. In order to describe these factorscontributing to student difficulty with graph the researchers supplied questions touniversity and high school students over a several year period. The students fromUniversity of Washington were in algebra or calculus-based physics courses. The highschool students were in either physics or physical science classes. The researchersidentified several specific difficulties from each these categories: difficulty in connectinggraphs to physical concepts and difficulty connecting graphs to the real world. Whenstudents tried to connect graphs to physical concepts they had difficulty with: 1. discriminating between slope and height of a graph 2. interpreting changes in height and changes in slope
16 3. relating one graph to another 4. matching narrative information with relevant features of the graph 5. interpreting the area under a graphWhen students tried to connect the graph to the real world they had difficulty with: 1. representing continuous motion by a continuous line 2. separating the shape of a graph from the path of the motion 3. representing a negative velocity on a velocity vs. time graph 4. representing constant acceleration on an acceleration vs. time graph 5. distinguishing among types of motion graphsThe three difficulties of particular interest to the proposed study included matchingnarrative information with relevant features of a graph, interpreting changes in height andchanges in slope and representing continuous motion by a continuous line. One of thetasks in Graphing Stories was to write a story to match a graph and vice a versa. Whenutilizing the Vernier motion probes, students actually saw how their continuous motionwas represented by a continuous line on the graph. Students also noticed that when theymoved faster the slope was steeper and when they moved slower the slope was not assteep. McDermott et al. stated that it has been our experience that literacy in graphicalrepresentation often does not develop spontaneously and that intervention in the form ofdirect instruction is needed. Research done by Beichner (1994) showed many similarities to other studies. Heidentified a consistent set of difficulties students faced when interpreting graphs:misinterpreting graphs as pictures, slope/height confusion, difficulty finding slopes oflines not passing through the origin and interpreting the area under the graph. He
17analyzed data from 895 high school and college students. The goal of the study was touncover kinematics graph problems and propose a test used as a diagnostic tool forevaluation of instruction. Implications from the study included: 1. Teachers need to be aware of the graphing problems. 2. Students need to understand graphs before they are used as a language of instruction. 3. Teachers must choose their words carefully. 4. Teachers should give students a large variety of motion situations for careful, graphical examination and explanation.Beichner stated that students must be given the opportunity to consider their own ideasabout kinematics graphs and must be encouraged to help modify those ideas whennecessary. Instruction that asks students to predict graph shapes, collect the relevant dataand then compare results to predictions appears to be especially suited to promotingconceptual change (Dykastra, 1992). Incorporating the MBL approach and real-time datacollection seemed key to the focus of this study. Many eighth grade students have not been exposed to the idea of slope prior tobeing expected to produce and interpret motion graphs. Even though algebra classesrequire students to take part in problems calculating slope, students do not understand theidea of slope as rate of change. Crawford and Scott (2000) found that by observing tablesand graphs, students learn to describe and extend patterns, create equations with variablesto represent patterns, and make predictions on the basis of these patterns. In order to helpstudents conceptualize slope as a rate of change, Crawford and Scott suggested threemodes of learning: visualization, verbalization, and symbolization. Instead of calculating
18slope from an equation, they stated it was useful to start with a graph then produce a tableof data and an equation that matched the rate of change. Once the students understoodthat slope describes the rate of change it was particularly useful to have students comparegraphs and slopes for two rates side by side. Using information from media that studentswere exposed to, like news from the internet, as an application for teaching slope canincrease interest and connect it to the real world. Often times collected data does not fitperfectly onto one line and requires a scatter plot to make sense of it. For example, evenseemingly random data like that shown in Figure 1 can be described through slope.Figure 1. Line of best fit for land speed records. Reprinted from Making Sense of Slopeby A.R Crawford & W.E Scott (2000). The Mathematics Teacher, 93, p. 117. Crawford and Scott (2000) stated that from their own experiences teachingalgebra, they observed many students calculate slopes and write equations for a linewithout understanding the concept of slope. They asserted that when assessing studentunderstanding of slope, it was imperative for assessments to ask students to provide
19rationale through written or oral responses. This rationale provided rich informationregarding a student’s understanding of slope. Hale (2000) reinforced ideas from McDermott et al. (1987) and Crawford andScott (2000) when she stated students have trouble with motion graphs even when theyunderstand the mathematical concepts. The author restated the student graph difficultiesstated in McDermott et al. Hale’s goal was to report possible underlying causes andprovide promising remedies to these problems. When discriminating between the slopeand the height of a graph, students often make the “simple mistake” of misreading theaxes. A discussion of this situation may reveal that, “a student’s principles may bereasonable, but they may not generalize to the given situation” (Hale, 2000), p. 415.When comparing two types of graphs, like a position graph and a velocity graph, studentsoften expect them to look similar. Personal experience has shaped the way studentsunderstand distance, velocity and acceleration. Hale argued that we cannot simply askstudents to abandon their concepts and replace them with ours. Monk (1994) offered thefollowing remedies: • an emphasis on conceptual as opposed to procedural learning-on understanding the ideas as opposed to knowing how to do the procedures • an emphasis on relating the mathematical ideas to real situations • classroom formats that encourage discussion, especially among students, in contrast to lecturing and telling by the teacherAlong with these proposed solutions, Hale suggested that teachers put emphasis on usingthe physical activity involved with an MBL setting. In order for students to repair their
20misconceptions they must be put in a learning situation, like in the proposed study, wherethey are confronted by them.Probeware In order to become literate in science students must be able to observe the worldaround them. This starts when an infant picks up an object and places it in their mouth.They are curious and use their mouth, fingers and toes to answer questions. In thebeginning of the school year, a teacher may ask students, “How do you observe the worldaround you?” Most students correctly respond with, “ We use our senses.” The sense oftouch is great way for determining hot and cold but no so good for determining the exacttemperature. We can extend our sense of touch with a thermometer. A themometerprobe is a thermometer that is connected to a computer and can make hundreds ofaccurate reading in a short amount of time. Probeware refers to to any computer aideddevice that accurately takes data (temperature, pH, motion, light intensity, etc.); it oftensimulanteously creates a graphical representation. Several studies investigated howprobeware can enhance students abitliy to interpret graphs. Creating graphs and working with mathematical functions is often the first timestudents work with a symbolic system that represents data. Pullano (2005) pointed outseveral difficulties associated with graphical representations of functions. “Slope/heightconfusion” and “iconic interpretation” are common misconceptions. When asked in adistance vs. time graph, students will often choose a lesser slope to represent a car goingfaster. Is the car B traveling faster on less slope because it looks like a hill with lessincline? Students exhibit “iconic interpretation” which means viewing a graph literally
21rather than as a representation of data. A positive slope followed by a negative slopelooks like a mountain rather that an object moving forward and backward. 10 Car A 8 6 distance Car B 4 2 0 0 2 4 6 8 10 timeFigure 2. A distance versus time raph for two cars. Adapted from Using Probeware toImprove Students Graph Interpretation Abilities by F. Pullano (2005). School Scienceand Mathematics, 105(7). In Pullano (2005), the goal of the study was to detemine the effects a probe-basedinstructional intervention had on eighth-grade students abilities to accurately interpretcontextual graph functions locally, globally, quantitatively and qualitatively. Ultrasonicmotion detectors, themometers, air pressure sensors and light intensity sensors were usedby small groups to collect physical phenomena. The results follow: 1. Students developed a formal understanding of slope which is the rate of change of one variable with respect to another. 2. By incorporating appropriate language and ideas learned from previous graphing activities, students used prior knowledge to correctly interpret graphs of unfamiliar contexts.
22 3. The iconic interpretation exhibited in pre-activity interview was absent from final interviews. (page 374)Pullano’s study had a very clear explanation of two graphing misconceptions, whichshaped the proposed research design of this study. Many people have difficulty with math because they do not see a way to connectit to their life. In a dissertation by Murphy (2004), she stated that the goal of her studywas to help a large number of students to understand the concepts of calculus in a waythat they could use effectively to address real problems. She first identfied two commonmisconceptions: graph as pictures or “GAP” and slope/height confusion. In GAP,students think of a line graph as a road map with the vertical axis as the north/southcomponent and the horizontal axis as the east/west component. Students can correctlyinterpret a map, but incorrectly apply this interpretation to other more abstract,representations of motion (Murphy, 2004). When asked to draw a graph representing awalk to and from a specific location students often create a the graph similar to Figure 3but should look like Figure 4. In slope/height confusion, students focus on the height ofthe graph rather than the incline of the slope when interpreting graphs. Both of thesemisinterpretations have been reported in middle school and high school students, collegeand university undergraduates and middle school teachers.
23 5 4 3 distance 2 1 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 timeFigure 3. The wrong way to represent a walk to and from a specific location. Adaptedfrom Using Computer-based Laboratories to Teach Graphing Concepts and theDerivative at the College Level by L.D. Murphy (2004). Dissertation. University ofIllinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA, p.10. 4 3 distance 2 1 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 timeFigure 4. The right way to represent a walk to and from a specific location. Adaptedfrom Using Computer-based Laboratories to Teach Graphing Concepts and theDerivative at the College Level by L.D. Murphy (2004). Dissertation. University ofIllinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA, p.10.
24 Murphy (2004) compared two methods of teaching derivatives to students inintroductory calculus by using computer graphing technology. The first method, MBL,although shown to be useful, was expensive and inconvenient. The second methodutilized a Java applet. The student moved a stick across the screen and the computerproduced a position graph. Murphy stated that earlier researchers had speculated that themotion sensor approach relies on whole-body motion and kinesthetic sense, whichsuggested that the Java approach, in which motion of the whole body over several feet isreplaced by moving a hand a few inches, might not be successful. Prior to and after theinstruction the sixty students were given an assessment and an attitude survey. Twentyeight students used the Java applet and thirty two students used the MBL method. Thepreinstructional measures indicated that the two groups were similar in graphingknowledge. The achievement tests indicated that both methods of instruction helpedstudents improve their abitlity to interpret motion graphs. Murphy was in favor of theusing the Java applet for her classes in the future because the cost is substantially lessthan that of the the motion sensors. Like Pullano (2005), Murphy clearly demonstratedgraphing misconceptions. In order for students to gain the benefits of probeware, teachers must be trained to usethe technology. Vonderwall, Sparrow and Zachariah (2005) described theimplementation and results of a project designed to train teachers to use an inquiry-basedapproach to science education with the help of emerging handheld technology. Bothelementary and middle school teachers learned how to integrate probeware into inquiry-based science lessons. The professional development session lasted two weeks during
25which teachers used Palm probes to measure water quality indicators such as pH,pollution levels, water temperature and dissoved oxygen. The projects had several goals: 1. expose teachers to inquiry-based science and emerging technologies 2. improve the access to underserved and underrepresented populations with emerging technologies 3. augment an inquiry-based science curriculum using probeware 4. give access to information and ideas developed in the session by creating a websiteThe purpose of the study was to find the answers to these questions: 1. What are teachers’ percieved proficiency about inquiry-based lessons utilizing probeware? 2. Are these technologies accessible? 3. Is a professional development program useful? 4. What are teachers’ experiences and perspectives on probeware used in inquiry based lessons? With focus on high-need schools districts in Ohio, 23 teachers participated in theprogram. A pre and post Likert scale survey and open-ended question discussion wereimplemented to answer the questions above. Teachers were also asked to implementinquiry-based lessons in their own classrooms and report any benefits or problems. Theresults indicated that many teachers changed from feeling not proficient prior to theprogram to feeling moderately proficient after the program. In terms of accessibilty (1 =no access and 5 = very accessible) to technology, teachers answers ranged between 1.3 to4.0. During the open-ended questions regarding the usefulness of the program as
26professional development, all of the teachers felt the program was very helpful.Although some of the teachers reported problems and issues with the implementation ofthe inquiry-based lesson with probeware, the general feeling was that they valued the factthat students could collect, read and analyze real-life data. Vonderwall et al. (2005)reported that all teachers reported increased student motivation and excitement by usingtechnology to learn science concepts. Similarly, this study will feed on students’motivation for technology use to reinforce inquiry. Metcalf and Tinker (2004) reported on the feasibility of probeware through costconsideration, teacher professional growth and instructional design. Teaching force andmotion and energy transformation is difficult and can be eased with use of probeware.The goal of this study was to develop two units that implement alternative low-costhardware in order to make technology based science lessons accessible to all. Metcalfand Tinker stated by demonstrating student learning of these difficult concepts witheconomical technologies and practical teacher professional development, we would havea powerful argument for a broad curriculum development effort using this approach.Metcalf and Tinker suggested using handheld computers and “homemade” probes ratherthan a full computer system and a probe to reduce cost. In this study, students used amotion detector called a SmartWheel, a do-it-yourself force probe, a temperature probeand a voltage/current meter. Thirty different classes, between 6-10 grade, with thenumber of students ranging from 6-47 participated in the study. Each unit (force andmotion and energy transformation) took between 9 and 20 days to complete. Pre andpost-tests were used to assess student preformance. Surveys and interviews were used tocollect teacher insight. When analyzing the student data, Metcalf focused on specific test
27questions. For the force and motion unit, they found a 28 percent improvement on aquestion that asks students to choose the graph that represents the motion of a cartmoving forward and backwards. For the energy transformation unit, they found an 11percent improvement on a question that asked about heat flow on a temperature vs. timegraph. Metcalf and Tinker stated that post-interviews with teachers found that studentlearning was enhanced through the use of the probes and handhelds for data gatheringand visualizations. Some other findings from teacher interviews include: the probesworked well, teachers were excited about the using technology in the classroom and wereeager to use it again in their classrooms. Teachers were successful in conductinginvestigations utilizing probes and handheld technologies and students made thecorrelation between phenomena and modeling, which in turn reduced misconception.The idea that probeware helps students learn the difficult concepts of force and motionsupports the goal of the proposed study. All four studies reviewed reported a decrease in graphing misconceptions becauseof the use of probeware. Pullano (2005) and Murphy (2004) used substantial evidencethrough literature review to clearly describe two graphing misconceptions: GAP or iconicinterpretation and slope/height confusion. Both Metcalf and Tinker (2004), andVonderwall et al. (2005) focused some of their attention on professional growth.Technology does not have much chance for success if teachers do not know how toimplement it. Only two studies, Murphy and Vonderwall et al., presented their results inan easily understandable format. Metcalf and Pullano’s conclusions were not completelyclear or convincing. Murphy as well as Metcalf and Tinker focused much attention onthe issue of cost and making technology accessible to all. Although MJHS has a
28partnership with UC Berkeley and has access to laptops and motion probes, it isimportant to always consider the cost issue because resources have a tendency todisappear. Vonderwall et al. and Metcalf and Tinker found success with Palm handheldcomputers. The proposed study utilized Vernier probes, which filled the same niche asthe Palm handhelds.Summmary According to constructivism, people learn through experiences. Sometimes theexperiences contribute to correct concepts of reality and sometimes experiencescontribute to misconceptions. Hale (2000) maintained that these difficulties are oftenbased on misconceptions that are rooted in the student’s own experiences. It is the job ofteachers to find these misconceptions and correct them. Interpreting graphs correctlyseems to be a problem for many middle school students. They have trouble gleaninginformation from them and producing graphs that represent the corresponding datacorrectly. These issues may be caused by the inability to reason in an abstract manner orbecause they have limited experiences from which to draw. Teachers have strategies tohelp combat these graphing misconceptions. Inquiry-based learning as cited byChiappeta (1997) and Colburn (2000) is the most widely accepted vocabulary word todescribe science education. Inquiry-based learning, a pedagogy of constructivism,focused on the idea that students learn by doing. The teacher acts as a facilitator andguides the students gently as they migrate through an investigation in which they ask thequestions, decide the procedure, collect and interpret data, make inferences andconclusions. Inquiry-based learning comes in many forms, but all require that studentshave most of the control of their learning. Deters (2005) claimed that even though
29inquiry-based lesson requires significantly more effort by the teacher and the student, theeffort is worth it. If a student takes part in a few inquiry-based lessons each year duringtheir middle and high school experience, the fear of “doing science” will be eliminated.The Graphing Stories project is an inquiry-based activity aimed at correcting studentmisconceptions that arise when they must interpret graphs. Interpreting graphs is one ofthe most crucial skills in science, especially physics. McDermott et al. (1987) maintainedthat students who have no trouble plotting points and computing slopes cannot applywhat they have learned about graphs from their study of mathematics to physics. Theremust be other factors, aside from their mathematical background that are responsible. Itis the job of the teacher according to Beichner (1994) to be aware of these factors and usea wide variety of inquiry-based strategies like the activities in Graphing Stories. It takesadvantage of probeware, specifically Vernier motion probes, which has been shown byresearch to help students interpret graphs correctly. The common misconceptionsstudents have while interperting graphs, according to Pullano (2000) and Murphy (2004),are iconic interpretation and slope/height confusion. In order for probeware to besuccessfully implemented there must be teacher training and sufficient funds. Metcalfand Tinker (2004) stated that by demonstrating student learning of these difficultconcepts with economical technologies and practical teacher professional development,we would have a powerful argument for a broad curriculum development effort using thisapproach. Some of the implications of the proposed study, utilizing the MBL approach,are that teachers must identify graphing misconceptions, design and implementappropriate inquiry-based techniques that present a wide variety of graphing activites,and have confidence that the experiences they provide accurately model how a student
31 Chapter III The focus of this research was to explore the effect of using motion probes andhow they may increase student understanding of motion graphs. Middle school sciencestudents need every advantage they can get in order to keep up with the mandatedCalifornia state curriculum. This study investigated the problem of graphingmisconceptions through a WISE 4.0 project called Graphing Stories that seamlesslyembedded the use of Vernier motion probes into a series of steps that teach students howto interpret position vs. time graphs. This MBL experience allowed students tosimultaneously perform a motion and see an accurate position vs. time graph produced ona computer screen. This program gave students an opportunity to learn graphingconcepts by the nature of its design. Students started with a firm foundation provided tothem by reviewing position and motion, were given significant practice through the useof the program and were required to take part in several forms of assessment. Observingmultiple classes of students while using the Graphing Stories program and the motionprobes, revealed that simply using this MBL type approach may not be enough to changehow students learn motion graphing. Preliminary evidence showed that while the use ofthe MBL tools to do traditional physics experiments may increase the students’ interest,such activities do not necessarily improve student understanding of fundamental physicsconcepts (Thornton & Sokoloff, 1990). Others suggested that the MBL approach worksonly if the technology is used correctly. This study tested the hypothesis of whetherstudents gain a better understanding of graphing concepts after working with Verniermotion probes and Graphing Stories than the students who work without the motionprobes.
32 Through the design of their curriculum, the science teacher guides students into acognitive process of discovery through experimentation. Piaget’s (1952) learning theoryof constructivism reinforced this idea by suggesting that a person’s “real” worldmanifests itself through a combination of all the events a person has experienced.Teachers must ensure students do not fill the gaps of knowledge with incorrect thoughtswhile learning from a “self-discovery” lesson. This idea of experimentation and “selfdiscovery” is known as inquiry-based learning which builds on the pedagogy ofconstructivism. Inquiry-based learning, when authentic, complements the constructivistlearning environment because it allows the individual student to tailor their own learningprocess (Kubieck, 2005). Motion probe usage involves students in an inquiry-basedlearning process. The literature suggested that there were benefits, Chiappetta (1997) and Colburn(2005), and problems, Deters (2005), with inquiry-based learning. In Deters, teachersgave reasons for not using inquiry: loss of control, safety issues, use more class time, fearof abetting student misconceptions, spent more time grading labs and students have manycomplaints. Even though many teachers were reluctant to incorporate inquiry-basedlessons into their curriculum, it was suggested that they may only need to utilize them afew times to be beneficial. Again in Deters, if students perform even a few inquiry-basedlabs each year throughout their middle school and high school careers, by graduation theywill be more confident, critical-thinking people who are unafraid of “doing science”. Theproposed study attempted to teach students how to interpret graphs utilizing an inquiry-based strategy in computer-supported environment.
33 To be successful in science, especially physics, it is imperative that studentsunderstand how to connect graphs to physical concepts and connecting graphs to the realworld. Since students consistently exhibit the same cognitive difficulty with graphingconcepts, teachers must incorporate the strategies stated in the interpreting graphs sectionof Chapter 2 into their curriculum, like giving students a variety of graphing situationsand choosing words carefully. The proposed study utilized probeware in the form ofVernier motion probes to help combat the difficulties of interpreting graphs. Metcalf andTinker (2004) did warn that in order for probeware to be successful, teachers must beproperly trained their usage.Background and Development of the Study Year after year, students come into the science classroom without the propercognitive tools for learning how to interpret graphs. Few students know what themathematical term slope is let alone how to calculate slope. Luckily adolescents aredeveloping their abstract thinking skills and learning slope is not a problem. One majorissue at work here is that the curriculum materials adopted by MJHS assume that eighthgrade students already know slope concepts. District mandated pacing guides allow notime for teaching the concept of slope. This study proposed that utilizing probeware,like Vernier motion probes, might equalize the cognitive tools the between the students. .Nicolaou, Nicolaidou, Zacharias and Constantinou (2007) stated that real-time graphing,made possible by data logging software, helps to make the abstract properties beinggraphed behave as though they were concrete and manipulable. It was hoped that theexperience of using the motion probes and the software would also allow more time toaddress graphing misconceptions.
34 At the time of this study, WISE 4.0 was new technology which seemed to have apromising future. The unique partnership of UC Berkeley (home of the WISE project)and the middle school site allowed teachers at the middle school to implement WISE 4.0curriculum without additional funds. UC Berkeley provided laptops computers, a wifirouter, probeware and graduate and post-graduate researchers for support. WISE 4.0 Graphing Stories was first available for use in fall 2009. Eighth gradephysical science students at the middle school research site were among the first studentsto participate in this innovative program. Teachers using the program immediately tooknotice of increased student engagement with the program and the motion probes. In2009, teachers did not compare results of students utilizing motion probes with studentswho did not. However, there was a general perception that motion probe usage wasbeneficial. The purpose of this study was to scientifically document whether thisperception was accurate.Components of the StudyThis project had two main research questions: • Does an MBL approach increases student understanding of graphing concepts? • Does motion probe usage increases student engagement?Along with the main research questions come several secondary objectives whichinclude: utilize the unique opportunity of the partnership between UC Berkeley andMJHS, reinforce the idea that the project Graphing Stories is an inquiry based learningtool and utilize students’ enthusiasm for technology. One purpose of technology is to improve the quality of our lives. This includesimproving the way teachers provide access to information for students. Today’s students
35are digital natives (Prensky, 2001) and have enthusiasm for technology. The MBLapproach was developed in the 1980’s with the invention of microcomputers, which isconsidered old technology today. The microcomputer-based laboratory utilized acomputer, a data collection interface, electronic probes, and graphing software, allowingstudents to collect, graph, and analyze data in real-time. Use of MBL would seem to be anatural way to engage digital learners yet, it appears that this idea has not really caughton even though many agree that it is successful. Two reasons may be preventing itsusage: 1. It is expensive to set-up a MBL. 2. Teachers are not properly trained in and are not asked to implement an MBL approach. Research has not proven that an MBL approach is superior to traditional methods.The idea that technology is a valuable learning tool was supported by the literaturesurrounding the use of the MBL approach or probeware. In general, research suggestedthat MBL is helpful, but did not prove its benefits. Metcalf and Tinker (2004) suggested that the cost of probeware is part of thereason why more teachers are not using them. The secondary objective of utilizing theunique opportunity of the partnership between UC Berkeley and MJHS negates the issueof cost. WISE 4.0 has been funded by a series of grants written by Marcia Linn, thesenior researcher for the WISE project. WISE 4.0 Graphing Stories, a free programaccessible through wise4.telscenter.org, is considered to be an inquiry-based learningtool.
36 Inquiry-based learning is often considered the goal of science instruction. Thesecondary teaching objective to reinforce the idea that the project Graphing Stories as aninquiry based learning tool and utilize students’ enthusiasm for technology came aboutbecause of this method of delivery. Strategies and techniques that are used by successfulscience teachers include: asking questions, science process skills, discrepant events,inductive and deductive activites, information gathering and problem solving (Chiappeta,1997). These strategies, provided through Graphing Stories, indirectly push students intolearning science concepts through self-discovery. The motion probe and accompaningsoftware encouraged students to move around and create personalized position vs. timegraphs as many times as they pleased. This teaching objective was measured by askingstudents to report on their perception of how motion probes affected their engagement.Methodology This study examined whether the use of Vernier motion probes and relatedsoftware increased student understanding of position vs. time graphs. Since theresearcher taught 4 eighth grade classes, it was decided to utilize a convenience samplefor this study. Data collection took place from October 7-14, 2010. Two classes (n =64) were the control group; meaning that they did not use motion probes. The other twoclasses (n = 61) used the motion probes and related software. All classes were given apre and post-test and a post-instructional survey. The pre-test was administered prior toimplementing WISE 4.0 Graphing Stories. All classes worked through the project, whichtook 5 -50 minute sessions. Several steps in the project asked students to utilize motionprobes. The control group was asked to complete a task that that did not involve themotion probe. This allowed for both groups to have different graphing experiences but
37be engaged an equal amount of time. The post-test was given after both groupscompleted Graphing Stories. The purpose of collecting qualitative data from the studentsurvey, Student Perceptions of Motion Probes (see Appendix B), was to get a sense ofstudents’ opinions regarding the use of motion probes when they learn how to graphmotion. It was hoped that both motion probe users and non motion probe users wouldfeel that motion probe usage increased student engagement. Sequence of events. 1. All students given a pre-test (see Appendix A) 2. All students participated in Graphing Stories exercise in which they are given a graph and a story that matches a. Experimental group used Vernier motion probes to test their prediction of how the graph was created in real time b. Control group did not do this step 3. All students asked to write a personal story involving motion and to create a matching position vs. time graph a. Experimental group used Vernier motion probes to test their prediction of how the graph was created in real time b. Control group did not do this step 4. All students given a post-test (see Appendix A) 5. All students given the student survey, Student Perceptions of Motion Probes (see Appendix B) The pre-test (Appendix A) consisted of twelve questions that asked students todraw various simple position vs. time graphs. The post-test (Appendix A) consisted of
38the same twelve questions as the pre-test plus a graph depicting a race followed by sixquestions that tested for understanding.Results In Figures 5 and 6, the motion probe users were compared to non motion probeusers. Figure 5 shows a frequency distribution of the scores all students earned on thepre-test. The scores were grouped into ten percent intervals. The range of scores on thepre-test was from 12.5 percent to 100 percent. Of the motion probe users, 10 percent hadalready mastered the interpretation of position vs. time graphs as compared to 12 percentof the non motion probe users. Figure 6 shows a frequency distribution of the scores all students earned on thepost-test. The score were again grouped into ten percent intervals. The range of scoreson the post-test was from 6 percent to 100 percent. Of the motion probe users, 37 percenthad mastered the interpretation of position vs. time graphs as compared to 34 percent ofthe non motion probe users. Since the pre-tests were given anonymously, it wasimpossible to present the data in matched pairs. Unexpectedly, one student from eachgroup performed at a lower level than they had in the pre-test.
39 Pre-Test Scores motion probe user non motion probe user 25 23 23 20 number of students 15 13 12 10 8 7 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 0 0 0-9% 19-10% 29-20% 39-30% 49-40% 59-50% 69-60% 79-70% 89-80% 100-90% test scoresFigure 5. Frequency distribution of the pre-test scores.Non motion probe users n = 64; motion probe users n = 61 Post-Test Scores motion probe user non motion probe user 14 12 12 12 11 10 10 10 10 10 number of students 8 8 7 7 6 6 6 4 4 4 3 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0-9% 19-10% 29-20% 39-30% 49-40% 59-50% 69-60% 79-70% 89-80% 100-90% test scoresFigure 6. Frequency distribution of the post-test scores.Non motion probe users n = 67; motion probe users n = 62
40 Tables 1, 2 and 3 show the frequency distribution of student responses to thesurvey questions regarding the usefulness of motion probes, motion probes and studentengagement and the advantage of motion probes.Table 1Frequency Distribution of Responses to the Questions Regarding the Usefulness ofMotion Probes. made it Would more not be difficult able to for motion learn probe without very not users to them helpful helpful helpful learnQuestion 1 MOTION PROBE USERMotion probe user: How useful do youthink the motion probes were in 5 20 37 1 0helping you learn about position vs.time graphs?Question 7 NON-MOTION PROBEUSER NOT a motion probe user:How useful do you think using themotion probes is for learning how to 1 15 47 8 1interpret position vs. time graphs?Remember you are making a judgmentfor those who actually used them. 6 35 84 9 1totals for both groups
41Table 2Frequency Distribution of Responses to the Questions Regarding Motion Probes andStudent Engagement. motion motion motion motion probes probes did probes probes made made the not made the the lesson lesson necessarily lesson something to more engage less remember engaging them engaging Question 4 MOTION PROBE USER Motion probe user: Did using motion probes help you 11 45 5 0 become more engaged in the learning process? Question 10 NON-MOTION PROBE USER NOT a motion probe user: Do you think using 6 35 13 0 motion probes made the lesson more engaging for the student who used them? totals for both groups 17 80 18 0Table 3Frequency Distribution of Responses to the Questions Regarding the Advantage of aMotion Probe. no do not advantage advantage knowQuestion 5 MOTION PROBEUSER Motion probe user: Do youfeel you had an advantage over thestudents who did not utilize the 52 8 0motion probes in learning how tointerpret position vs. time graphs?Please explainQuestion 11 NON-MOTIONPROBE USER NOT a motion probeuser: Do you feel students who usedthe motion probes had an advantage 42 11 1over the students who did not utilizethe motion probes in learning how tointerpret position vs. timetotals for both groups 94 19 1
42The data from the survey entitled, Student Perceptions of Motion Probes, revealed thefollowing preceptions of motion probes: • 93 percent (125/135) of the students felt the motion probe was useful (motion probe users) or thought it would be useful (non motion probe users) for learning about position vs. time graphs, and 7 percent (10/135) felt the motion probe was not useful. • 84 percent (97/115) of the students felt the motion probe made the lesson more engaging, and 16 percent (18/115) felt the motion probe made the lesson either not engaging or less engaging. • 83 percent (94/113) of the students felt the motion probe users had an advantage over non motion probe users in learning how to interpret position vs. time graphs, and 17 percent (19/113) felt there was no advantage.Analysis The unpaired t-test was used to compare the motion probe users and the nonmotion probe users groups for both the pre and post-test. The unpaired t-test was chosenbecause the sample sizes between the groups were not equal. Results of the pre-test. There was no significant difference between the motionprobe users and the non motion probe users in initial knowledge of how to interpretposition vs. time graphs (t = 1.3256, d.f. = 123, P = 0.1874 p = .05). This resultsupported the desired outcome of having the two groups start with equal understanding ofposition vs. time graphs.
43 Results of the post-test. The post-test results showed no significant differencebetween the motion probe users and the non motion probe users (t = 0.6595, d.f. = 127, P= 0.5107 p = .05) in knowledge of how to interpret position vs. time graphs. This resultdid not give results to support the desired outcome of having the two groups end withunequal understanding of position vs. time graphs, i.e. the group that used the motionprobes was expected to perform better. The researcher must accept the null hypothesiswhich states that students will not have a better understanding of graphing concepts afterworking with Vernier motion probes and Graphing Stories than the students who workwithout the motion probes. Results of student survey. Although the pre and post-test results suggested thatan MBL approach does not necessarily increase student understanding of graphingconcepts, the student survey, Student Perceptions of Motion Probes (see Appendix B),did help answer the research question regarding motion probe usage and studentengagement. The answers given by both the motion probe and non motion probes usersclearly demonstrated that motion probe usage was beneficial in terms of increasingstudent engagement when working with position vs. time graphs. An informal review of students’ actions while utilizing the motion probesrevealed valuable insight to how they view position vs. time graphs. Similar to Lapp andCyrus (2000), students did not understand the information the graph was presenting(Figure 7). Instead of moving back and forth along a straight line to produce a graph thatmatched the distance time information given, students typically walked in a path thatresembled the shape of the original graph (Lapp & Cyrus, 2000). The probe is not able todetect the path of motion many students tried to follow (Figure 8).
44Figure 7. Distance time graph for student investigation. Reprinted from D. Lapp & V.Cyrus (2000). Using Data-Collection Devices to Enhance Students’ Understanding.Mathematics Teacher, 93(6), p. 504.Figure 8. Path of walker. Reprinted from D. Lapp & V. Cyrus (2000). Using Data-Collection Devices to Enhance Students’ Understanding. Mathematics Teacher, 93(6), p.504.Summary The responsibility of teaching eighth grade students how to interpret position vs.time graphs has been slowed by a significant hurdle. The California State Standardsassumes that eighth grade students know how to interpret and calculate slope. It is
45considered an abstract concept and not taught until well into the algebra curriculum.Many students do not even take algebra until high school. Physical science curriculumrequires students to understand slope prior to it being taught how to graph motion.Working with UC, Berkeley, MJHS teachers have been lucky to utilize WISE 4.0,specifically Graphing Stories. The researcher discovered a new technology (GraphingStories and Vernier motion probes) and decided to use it. Even though research of theMBL approach has failed to prove its worth, many still claim it to be beneficial providedthat it is used correctly. This study was based on the hypothesis that motion probes usagewould help students interpret position vs. time graphs better than student who did not usemotion probes. Analysis of data revealed that the Vernier motion probe did not give itsusers an advantage over the non-users in interpreting motion graphs. A student survey,however, found that students felt the motion probes made the lesson more engaging.
46 Chapter IV This study examined a problem with the sequence of the California StateStandards which expect eighth grade students to understand and calculate slope prior tothe exposure to the physical science curriculum. This expectation is based on theassumption that students have previous experience with the mathematical concept ofslope. In fact, in the mathematics sequence, the concept of slope is not introduced tomath students until well into the algebra curriculum. Students who have developed theirabstract thinking skills and are competent in mathematics have no trouble with sloperegardless of prior instruction. Students who are just developing their abstract thinkingskill and/or poor in mathematics have a difficult time with the concept of slope. This creates a knowledge gap when it is time for a middle school science teacherto teach motion graphs. This study was conceived in response to observations by theresearcher after utilizing WISE 4.0, Graphing Stories and Vernier motion probes thatthere was a change in student behavior when they learned how interpret position vs. timegraphs using those tools. This study attempted to quantify the degree of change whenusing the combination of Graphing Stories and motion probes to teach motion graphs.This combination of tools is considered to be an MBL approach, which refers to anytechnique that connects a physical event to immediate graphic representation. This study had similar outcomes to Brungardt and Zollman (1995) who found nosignificant differences between learning with real-time and delay-time analysis, but didnotice that students using MBLs appeared to be more motivated and demonstrated morediscussion in their groups. The purpose of this study was to show that motion probe
47usage, despite the knowledge gap, would help students interpret position vs. time graphsbetter than the previous non-motion probe teaching techniques.Study Outcomes This study tested the hypothesis that students would have a better understandingof graphing concepts after working with Vernier motion probes and Graphing Storiesthan the students who work without the motion probes. Two main research questionsguided the study: • Does an MBL approach increases student understanding of graphing concepts? • Does motion probe usage increases student engagement?Along with the main research questions come several secondary goals which included:utilize the unique opportunity of the partnership between UC Berkeley and MJHS,reinforce the idea that the project Graphing Stories is an inquiry based learning tool andutilize students’ enthusiasm for technology. Even though the researcher had access to approximately 130 eighth gradestudents, the experimental and control group samples could not be randomly assigned.The only option was to utilize the fact that the students were separated into four classesand create a convenience sample. This may have caused the samples to be slightlybiased. The four classes were separated into two groups of two classes each, one groupwas designated the motion probe users and other became the non-motion probe users.The pre-test results found the groups to be similar in their position vs. time graphknowledge. Both groups worked through the Graphing Stories lesson. The motion probeusers utilized the motion probes for several steps while the non motion users did not. The
48post-test results also showed the groups to be similar in their position vs. time graphknowledge. Although the results did not show that an MBL approach increased studentunderstanding of graphing concepts, this result was consistent with the literature.Preliminary evidence showed that while the use of the MBL tools to do traditionalphysics experiments may increase the students’ interest, such activities do not necessarilyimprove student understanding of fundamental physics concepts (Thornton & Sokoloff,1990). This statement was also reinforced by the data from the student survey. Moststudents felt that motion probes increased engagement and were advantageous forlearning how to interpret position vs. time graphs. As for the other three goals, this study was successful. The partnership betweenUC Berkeley and MJHS is still in effect as of fall 2010. Every WISE 4.0 project run isfollowed by an in depth interview about successes, failures and ideas to improve WISEprojects. The fact that students are engaged in self-discovery and create individualmotion graphs and stories helps reinforce the idea that Graphing Stories is an inquirybased learning tool. The students who took part in this study expressed enthusiasm forutilizing technology when the student survey showed that motion probes increasedengagement. The finding of the researcher are to similar to Vonderwall et al. (2005) whofound that all teachers report increased student motivation and excitement by usingtechnology to learn science concepts.Proposed Audience, Procedures and Implementation Timeline The idea for this study spawned from the problem that the California StateStandards assumes that eighth grade students understand slope prior to entering physical
49science class. They are not taught slope until well into algebra class (currently eighthgrade math). In the fall 2009, the researcher was introduced to Graphing Stories and theuse of motion probes. An increase in student engagement and possibly an improvedmethod of teaching motion graphs was noticed. In spring 2010 the researcher enrolled inthe Educational Technology masters program at Touro University. A small bit ofsearching revealed that the approach being applied by using computers and motionprobes was called Microcomputer-Based Laboratory (MBL). More searching revealedthat most literature stated the MBL approach was beneficial yet none had proven it. Theresearcher noticed such a change in student behavior during the fall 2009 that the MBLapproach must be useful. Graphing Stories provided the perfect balance of implementingthe MBL approach, inquiry based learning, technology usage and teaching student how tointerpret motion graphs. Data collection started in October 2010. Two groups ofapproximately 60 students were given a pre-test. After the students worked through theproject a post-test was given. Finally, a student survey was given to test for studentperceptions on the motion probes. Although the data did not reveal the desired result ofhaving the MBL approach be directly beneficial, it has supported the general findings ofmuch of the research surrounding graphing misconceptions, probeware and motiongraphs. This study has contributed to the field of education buy reinforcing the idea thatteachers can utilize emerging technologies, like probeware, to encourage students to learndifficult concepts like motion graphing with enthusiasm. The new age of student as digital natives is causing teachers to search for newway to engage students. There is overwhelming competition for adolescent attentionwith cell phones and video games leading the way. Teachers who are willing to