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Student sensemaking in an introductory reform-based physics lab: Two case studies on a teaching assistant’s role in student sensemaking

Semester: Summer 2023


Presentation description

Student sensemaking is an important area of the current Physics Education Research. Student sensemaking describes the process a student goes through when thinking through and resolving problems experienced in a science educational setting, in this case the setting is an introductory reform-based physics lab. During the physics lab, students experienced procedural and conceptual inconsistencies triggering their sensemaking processes in order to identify, troubleshoot, figure out, and resolve an inconsistency. Despite sensemaking being significant, there has been minimal research done on teaching assistants (TA) facilitating the students' sensemaking processes; the TA's assistance may be productive, inhibiting, or fail to do anything at all. The data being used to carry out the current study is audio and video recording collected from an IPLS (Introductory Physics for Life Sciences) lab where the majority of enrolled were pre-med and biology students with little to no background in physics. A qualitative approach was taken in which the lab recordings were viewed multiple times and annotated for student sensemaking and TA facilitations of the sensemaking using a codebook. After 'coding', two episodes were picked as case studies and analyzed more heavily for what inconsistency was occurring with students, how the students used sensemaking to sort through the inconsistency, and how the TA facilitated the students sensemaking. We find that both cases, due to being very different, offer unique perspectives on TA-group dynamics and TA courses of action to aid in students' sensemaking in different lab scenarios that are categorized as a successful resolution of an inconsistency and an incomplete resolution of an inconsistency. Studying the interactions between TAs and students allows for deeper understanding of how TAs facilitate student sensemaking and paves the way for equipping current and future TAs with new, improved knowledge on helping students be more productive in their sensemaking processes.

Presenter Name: William Grant

Presentation Type: Poster
Presentation Format: In Person
Presentation #12
College: Education
School / Department: Educational Psychology
Research Mentor: Lauren Barth-Cohen
Date | Time: Friday, Aug 4th | 10:30 AM