This study investigates the effect of laboratory work’s typical technical difficulties on student learning in the physical science classroom. Certainly the educational strategies of text and lecture are sorely lacking. But do laboratories in physical science frustrate students more than they teach them? To investigate this question, the study involved differentiating instruction for three classes of freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior students enrolled in an introductory physical science course at a local high school. Two classes participated in a physical DC circuits laboratory, while a third class instead participated in a simulation counterpart - that is, an electronic experimental setup that by design cannot have technical difficulties like poor wire connections or faulty bulbs. Results show that the simulation laboratory had a more significant impact on students’ post test responses, though not always for the better. These results are enlightened by observations of student interaction with each laboratory activity.
I am a senior Physics and Secondary Education double major planning to either begin a career teaching high school physics following graduation. This research question was sparked when, as a student teacher at a local high school, I witnessed students frustrated and struggling through laboratories in the science classroom. It is my hope that just as continued research uncovers new knowledge in the hard sciences, continued research in how students understand and learn science will open doors for new and improved teaching practices as well.
Kutz, Kayla, "Houston, We Have a Problem: Effects of Technical Frustration on Student Learning in Physics Laboratories" (2013). Education Senior Action Research Projects. Paper 25.