IA 2019 reflections
Saturday 20 April 2019
I've just finished giving first draft feedback on my first year student's IA and thought I'd take time to reflect. As is probably the case with many schools, we have a problem getting students to hand work in on time, personally I don't have a problem. I insist that students work on a live document in Google classroom and I monitor their progress at all stages. All but 2 students made the deadline and those 2 asked for an extra day then delivered.
The IA is supposed to take up 10 hours of class time so I allocate 3 weeks to it (slightly more than 10 hrs). This isn't enough though, all of my students have spent many hours in the lab at night, sometimes early morning. I am lucky to be able to give my students free access to the lab, I'm not sure how they would cope without.
Some may think that it's a bit early to be doing the IA but the students are well prepared having followed a schedule of activities that have introduced and given practice in all of the necessary skills:
- Use of data loggers and software Capstone, LoggerPro and Datastudio
- Processing data in Excel.
- Graph plotting in LoggerPro
- Modelling with Algodoo and GeoGebra
- Iterative modelling in Excel
They have also done one complete Mini investigation which was marked according to the criteria, this gives pratice in developing a research question and evaluating results.
From past experience I know the sort of investigation that is likely to be problematic and try to steer my students away from those areas, not always successfully. I also refuse to allow anyone to do the refractive index of salty water. I'm not against using the internet for inspiration but a more imaginative search than "physics IA" is required.
I'm not easily impressed but this year I've been close, they won't all get 24/24 in the final assessment but if it was based on effort most would be up there. There has also been a lot of learning going on, not only about physics but the whole scientific method. For me it's been a good 3 weeks, sometimes I get a bit frustrated having to explain the same thing many times but my students are forgiving when I get a bit ratty. As you may have gathered I deliver the course in a student centred way through the activities on this website holding back not holding forth, letting the students dictate the pace. The idea is that students ask for help when needed, some are good at this but others not. Lessons can be a bit quiet sometimes but not these past weeks, enquiry based learning at it's best.
There have been many nice stories, here's one:
Kristina wanted to investigate the relationship between the buoyant force and temperature of water. Knowing that water expands non linearly she realised the data analysis wouldn't be easy but no one expected it to be so problematic. First attempts with cork gave the reverse of expected even when the expansion of cork was taken into account. Maybe the cork absorbs water? It was boiled and soaked, still no joy. Maybe cork has non linear expansion? A brass cylinder was used instead but it solved nothing. I wonder if the force sensor is affected by temperature? BINGO.