Investigative Science Learning Environment

Developed by: Eugenia Etkina, Alan Van Heuvelen

middle schoolhigh schoolintro collegeinter-mediateupper levelgrad school   other

 Intro College Calculus-based
calc based
 Intro College Algebra-based
alg based
 Intro College Conceptual

Mechanics  Electricity / Magnetism  Waves / Optics  Thermal / Statistical
Lecture - Large (30+ students)  Lecture - Small (<30 students)  Recitation/Discussion Session  Lab  Studio

What? Comprehensive learning system for introductory physics that engages students in experiences that mirror experiences of practicing scientists. Builds on students' correct intuitions rather than eliciting and confronting their misconceptions.

Example materials


Student skills developed

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

Instructor effort required

  • Medium

Resources required

  • Projector
  • Advanced lab equipment
  • Cost for students

Intro Article: E. Etkina and A. Van Heuvelen, Investigative Science Learning Environment - A Science Process Approach to Learning Physics, in Research-Based Reform of University Physics (2007), Vol. 1.

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.

You can also purchase the Active Learning Guide for College Physics, which contains activities and problems that can be used in lectures, recitations, labs, and homework for concept construction, testing and applications, or College Physics, a textbook based on ISLE.

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

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