Day 43: Experimental Design (Factors Affecting Friction)

College-Prep Physics: I was inspired by John Burk’s weekend post about a classroom visit from Eugenia Etkina, in which she flat out says to John, “You guys like Socratic dialog way too much.” So today, I just told the class:


And I just let groups brainstorm and whiteboard their experimental designs first. I didn’t even tell them what materials they would have at their disposals to conduct their experiements — I just wanted to see what they would come up with first and not sway or confuse their thinking in any way.

I was impressed with everyone’s ideas, even if some struggled with control of variables for the surface area case. I particularly loved this board for its simplicity and effective communication via visuals:


(The words on the right got smudged. It says weight to match that of the big shoe.)



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About Frank Noschese

HS Physics Teacher constantly questioning my teaching.

One response to “Day 43: Experimental Design (Factors Affecting Friction)”

  1. Doug Smith (@bcphysics) says :

    I think this is a great step forward. I’ve seen some videos from pre-lab discussions that reveal too many details from too few people, imo. The next step is to get the students to come up with the factors. I’ve done friction inquiries like this several times and it works very well. Students will predictably want to test surface area, mass, material, speed, temperature and gravity (good luck in varying gravity – this is where Socratic dialogue is useful! – what is the relationship between mass and gravity…).

    As always, I really appreciate your blogging and other sharing of ideas.

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