Implementation
Guide
Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE)

Developed by: Eugenia, Etkina, David Brookes, Gorazd Planinsic, and Alan Van Heuvelen

Level

middle schoolhigh schoolintro collegeinter-mediateupper levelgrad school   other

calc based

alg based

conceptual

Topics
Setting

What? Intentional holistic learning environment that helps students learn physics by engaging them in processes that mirror scientific practice and improves their well-being while they are learning physics. Builds on students' correct intuitions rather than eliciting and confronting their misconceptions.

Why? ISLE focuses on engaging students in scientific practices and building productive intuitions, rather than developing conceptual understanding and confronting difficulties. ISLE fits easily into a traditional structure of lectures, labs, and recitations, or into a studio or SCALE-UP classroom.

Why not? ISLE is very different from traditional or even other reformed physics instruction, so it may take some time for the instructor and the students to get used to it and to understand what they are supposed to be doing and to learn new ways of teaching and learning.

### Example materials

More teaching materials…

### Activity outline

##### The Three Components of ISLE
1. The first component is a cycle of logical reasoning that repeats for every new topic that is learned. The reasoning logic is a marriage of inductive and hypothetico-deductive reasoning:
Inductive: Observational experiments provide students with interesting data (and patterns) that need to be explained. Students generate multiple explanations based on prior knowledge and analogical reasoning.
Hypothetico-deductive: If this explanation is correct, and I do such and such (perform a testing experiment), then so and so should happen (prediction based on explanation). But it did not happen, therefore my idea is not correct (judgment). Or and it did happen therefore my idea has not been disproved yet (judgment).
2. The second component of ISLE is an array of representational tools that students learn to use to travel around the ISLE cycle and solve real-world problems (applications). These include: pictures, graphs, motion diagrams, force diagrams, impulse-momentum bar charts, work-energy bar charts, electric circuit diagrams, ray diagrams, wave front diagrams, etc.
3. The third component of ISLE is the development of a set of scientific abilities or scientific habits of mind that allow students to travel around the ISLE cycle and solve real-world problems (applications) by thinking like a physicist. Here is an example of a scientific ability that students develop in ISLE: Students are able to identify assumptions they are making and how those assumptions affect a result. Notice that this ability applies in multiple contexts. Assumptions are made in designing a testing experiment and may affect the outcome of that experiment or the conclusions that are drawn from that experiment. Assumptions are made when applying physics knowledge to solve a real-world problem (e.g., figure out how far a projectile will travel). The assumptions made will affect the result of the calculation when compared with the actual outcome (i.e., firing the projectile and seeing how far it actually went). The full set of scientific abilities and the multiple contexts in which they occur are codified in the scientific abilities rubrics.

### Student skills developed

Designed for:
• Conceptual understanding
• Problem-solving skills
• Lab skills
• Using multiple representations
• Designing experiments
• Metacognition
• Making real-world connections

• Medium

### Resources required

• Projector
• Cost for students

ISLE Implementation Guide

Intro Article: D. Brookes, E. Etkina, and G. Planinsic, Implementing an epistemologically authentic approach to student-centered inquiry learning, Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 16 (2), 020148 (2020).
External Resources

Book describing the approach: E. Etkina, D. Brookes, and G. Planinsic, Investigative Science Learning Environment: When learning physics mirrors doing physics, (2019).

More articles describing the ISLE approach:

Textbooks:

• E. Etkina, G. Planinsic, and A. Van Heuvelen, College Physics: Explore and Apply, (Pearson, New York, 2019): A textbook based on ISLE that will guide you through the ISLE process step-by-step, offer lots of real-life applications, examples of problem solving, and non-traditional problems. Includes a FREE instructor guide.
• E. Etkina, D. Brookes, G. Planinsic, and A. Van Heuvelen, Active Learning Guide (ALG), (Pearson, New York, 2019): A FREE set of activities and problems that can be used in lectures, recitations, labs, and homework for concept construction, testing and applications.
• E. Etkina, D. Brookes, G. Planinsic, and A. Van Heuvelen, Instructor Resource Materials, (Pearson, New York, 2019): A FREE instructor guide that lists general and content specific learning objectives for each chapter, describes common student difficulties, lists non-traditional problems, explains the logic of the material flow, the nuances of representations and language we use; it provides suggestions for instructors related to the sequence and implementation of the activities, student difficulties and cues the instructors on where the activities should be used.

Community: To become a part of the community of teachers implementing ISLE, join the Facebook group “Exploring and Applying Physics”. When you ask to join, do not forget to answer the question.

You can download many materials for teaching ISLE, including a complete ISLE Laboratory Program (for algebra- and calculus-based physics), a set of ISLE Video Experiments, and a set of higher-level thinking formative assessment activities and rubrics from the ISLE website.

ISLE activities are also available through the following textbooks:

• E. Etkina, G. Planinsic, and A. Van Heuvelen, College Physics: Explore and Apply, (Pearson, New York, 2019): A textbook based on ISLE that will guide you through the ISLE process step-by-step, offer lots of real-life applications, examples of problem solving, and non-traditional problems. Includes a FREE instructor guide.
• E. Etkina, D. Brookes, G. Planinsic, and A. Van Heuvelen, Active Learning Guide (ALG), (Pearson, New York, 2019): A FREE set of activities and problems that can be used in lectures, recitations, labs, and homework for concept construction, testing and applications.
• E. Etkina, D. Brookes, G. Planinsic, and A. Van Heuvelen, Instructor Resource Materials, (Pearson, New York, 2019): A FREE instructor guide that lists general and content specific learning objectives for each chapter, describes common student difficulties, lists non-traditional problems, explains the logic of the material flow, the nuances of representations and language we use; it provides suggestions for instructors related to the sequence and implementation of the activities, student difficulties and cues the instructors on where the activities should be used.

Here are sample activities on electromagnetic induction and circular motion.

RESEARCH VALIDATION
Gold Star Validation
This is the highest level of research validation, corresponding to:
• both of the "based on" categories
• at least 4 of the "demonstrated to improve" categories
• at least 5 of the "studied using" categories
(Categories shown below)

### Research Validation Summary

The ISLE developers conducted studies on student use of language, multiple representations, ability to design their own experiments, and their attitudes towards learning through the ISLE approach. These findings helped them redesign curriculum materials and articulate intentionalities more concisely. They used the following methods in our research: pre-post testing, analysis of student written work, observations of students in the classroom working on ISLE activities, interviews, surveys, focus groups. They used scientific abilities rubrics to score student lab reports and found how long it takes to develop certain scientific abilities. ISLE students have good learning gains on standardized tests (FCI, CSEM, etc.), they do not go down (and sometime they go up) on attitudinal assessments (CLASS and E-CLASS), they use multiple representations when solving problems without prompting, they are able to design their own experiments and communicate the findings effectively. Recent work found that effects of learning though ISLE persist after many years of taking an ISLE-based course. Researchers also found that when the ISLE approach cannot be implemented as intended (as a holistic environment), it can still be used to revise lab courses only. The learning gains are smaller then but are still significant. Researchers also found that training instructors is crucial for effective implementation of the ISLE approach.

#### 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