The effects of inquiry activities in a ninth grade physics classroom
Mingels, Mary Katherine
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The focus of this study was on the impact of including guided inquiry activities in a 9th grade introductory physics class. Specific focus was paid to measuring the effect on student engagement, interest, and content mastery. It was also of interest whether the inquiry activities were more effective when implemented before or after direct instruction of the content. The research covered three units of study. During the Pre-treatment unit on Newton's 3rd Law and Momentum, students did not receive any special treatment, but rather experienced my traditional style of teaching with lectures, note taking, a few standard lab type activities, and short video supplements. In each of the next two units, the first on Work, Power, and the Conservation of Energy and the second on Heat and Heat Transfer, students were introduced to guided inquiry activities. The students were split into two research groups. In the first of the treatment units, group A received direct instruction first and group B experienced the inquiry activities prior to direct instruction. In the second of the treatment units, the two groups' experiences were switched. Data from class surveys, pre- and post- tests, and a mock assessment with a standardized test agreed that overall not only did students prefer the inquiry activities to the previous class structure, their understanding of the physics content was also increased. Students were more engaged while conducting inquiry activities and actually requested to do more of these types of activities. Furthermore, it was found that the inquiry activities were more effective when they followed a period of direct instruction rather than being used to introduce a topic.