Explorations in Physics

Developed by: David P. Jackson, Priscilla W. Laws, and Scott V. Franklin

middle schoolhigh schoolintro collegeinter-mediateupper levelgrad school   other

Intro College Conceptual

Mechanics  Waves / Optics  Thermal / Statistical

What? A sequence of introductory, activity-based, laboratory activities that integrate the use of guided-inquiry techniques with self-directed projects to help non-science majors appreciate science, understand the process of scientific investigations, and master physics concepts.

Why? EiP allows you to incorporate small-group activities that guide students through the process of scientific inquiry into your course for non-science majors. Each unit is independent offering flexibility. EiP was designed for small classes in a studio setting, but can be adapted for a lecture setting.

Why not? The EiP materials are out of print and there are not many supporting materials or professional development opportunities to learn to use them.

Activity outline

Academic Calendar Class Schedule Core Material Student Projects
Semester 3 hrs/week 1 Unit 1 Full Project
6 hrs/week 2 Units 2 Full Projects
Quarter 3 hrs/week 1 Unit 1 Shortened Project
6 hrs/week 2 Units 1 Full Project

Topic outline

  • Unit A: Force, Motion, and Scientific Theories
  • Unit B: Light, Sight, and Rainbows
  • Unit C: Heat, Temperature, and Cloud Formation
  • Unit D: Buoyancy, Pressure, and Flight

Student skills developed

Designed for:
  • Conceptual understanding
  • Lab skills
  • Making real-world connections
  • Designing experiments

Instructor effort required

  • Medium

Resources required

  • TAs / LAs
  • Computers for students
  • Advanced lab equipment
  • Tables for group work
  • Studio classroom

Developer's website: Explorations in Physics

Explorations in Physics comes in a book that was originally published by Wiley but is now out of print. You can download a pdf version of the book for free from Dickinson College or order it from Amazon.

Bronze Validation
This is the third highest level of research validation, corresponding to:
  • at least 1 of the "based on" categories
  • at least 1 of the "demonstrated to improve" categories
  • at least 1 of the "studied using" categories
(Categories shown below)

Research Validation Summary

In an external evaluation, students in an EiP class for bioscience majors improved slightly on the EBAPS. Interviews revealed that even though many students recognized they were learning more, some were ambivalent and not sure the demands made on them was “worth the effort.” Other students were very positive about the learning methods. As the modules have become more refined, student ambivalence about inquiry-based learning has decreased. Developers also conducted informal assessments of conceptions in examinations. For example, research conducted during the development phase of the module regarding whether light can be seen from the side revealed differences in the percentages of students holding this incorrect belief decreased after EiP instruction from 77% to 24%.

Based on Research Into:

  • theories of how students learn
  • student ideas about specific topics

Demonstrated to Improve:

  • conceptual understanding
  • problem-solving skills
  • lab skills
  • beliefs and attitudes
  • attendance
  • retention of students
  • success of underrepresented groups
  • performance in subsequent classes

Studied using:

  • cycle of research and redevelopment
  • student interviews
  • classroom observations
  • analysis of written work
  • research at multiple institutions
  • research by multiple groups
  • peer-reviewed publication