J.A. Molina Bolívar, A.I. Urquiza García

University of Málaga (SPAIN)
Studies of undergraduate science education show that student must be actively engaged in the learning process for it to be effective. Passive lecturing (“teaching by telling”) is known to be insufficient for developing critical thinking skills. Research also provided a mounting evidence of the importance of social interaction in an active student-centered learning environment. For example, small-group collaborative active learning environment is known to be much more effective for developing conceptual understanding in introductory physics than the traditional lecture setting. For these reasons, science education is gradually moving from this traditional method of lecturing to more interactive approaches. One such approach is Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) where students work together in small groups and the instructor serves as a facilitator or “coach” instead of a lecturer. IBSE is a student-centered active learning strategy focused on questioning to discover natural laws, linking information into a meaningful context, developing critical thinking and promoting positive attitudes towards science. It is associated with the idea “involve me and I understand”. In this pedagogical method the students are guided through investigations to “discover” concepts. Targeted concepts are generally not told to the students in lectures before they have an opportunity to investigate (or at least think about) the idea.

The application of IBSE principles to physics learning leads to the so-called Inquiry-Based Physics. Physical experiments play a key role in Inquiry-Based Physics because they are the basis for inquiry. The students are guided to form conclusions based on evidence they acquire from the experimental problems. By Inquiry-Based Physics it is possible introduce the laboratory component into the classroom as a regular learning activity.

In the present academic year we have implemented innovative units based on the Inquiry-Based Physics philosophy in the programme of Physics I for the grade of Mechanical Engineering in the University of Málaga. We present in this communication the followed process and results obtained for the unit Newton´s Laws. In our classroom, the students sit at tables (2 teams of 3 students each) for classroom activity. In the academic activity, the students have to use automated video analysis software based on image recognition (Tracker) to measure the position as a function of time of a physical system in order to resolve an experimental problem. Each group of 3 students have a personal computer. An ultra-high-speed digital movie of an experiment is used as working material to resolve the experimental problem. The instructor circulates to keep students on track, answer questions and promote useful discussions. In this way, a dynamic collective learning environment is created which fully engages students. Students were very involved in the learning experience and their satisfaction was very high (4.7 out 5).

Acknowledgement: This work has been financially supported by the Project PIE13-005 University of Málaga.