Occasional white boarding : examining the effects of physics students' understanding of motion graphs

Tony Schwaller



The Modeling method of teaching has demonstrated well--‐documented success in the improvement of student learning. The teacher/researcher in this study was introduced to Modeling through the use of a technique called White Boarding. Without formal training, the researcher began using the White Boarding technique for a limited number of laboratory experiences with his high school physics classes. The question that arose and was investigated in this study is “What specific aspects of the White Boarding process support student understanding?”

For the purposes of this study, the White Boarding process was broken down into three aspects – the Analysis of data through the use of Logger Pro software, the Preparation of White Boards, and the Presentations each group gave about their specific lab data. The lab used in this study, an Acceleration of Gravity Lab, was chosen because of the documented difficulties students experience in the graphing of motion. In the lab, students filmed a given motion, utilized Logger Pro software to analyze the motion, prepared a White Board that described the motion with position--‐time and velocity--‐time graphs, and then presented their findings to the rest of the class. The Presentation included a class discussion with minimal contribution from the teacher.

The three different aspects of the White Boarding experience – Analysis, Preparation, and Presentation – were compared through the use of student learning logs, video analysis of the Presentations, and follow--‐up interviews with participants. The information and observations gathered were used to determine the level of understanding of each participant during each phase of the lab. The researcher then looked for improvement in the level of student understanding, the number of “aha” moments students had, and the students’ perceptions about which phase was most important to their learning.

The results suggest that while all three phases of the White Boarding experience play a part in the learning process for students, the Presentations provided the most significant changes. The implications for instruction are discussed.