Constructivist Lesson Plan

 The following example of a constructivist lesson plan allows students to create and test their own hypothesis. The file for the lesson plan is followed by a laboratory report worksheet and an exercise, complete with sample solutions.

Course/Class: Physics 20
Name: Frank Jenkins
Date: 02-09-28
Topic:Trajectories, motion and forces
Unit 1: Kinematics and Dynamics
Grade: 11
A.   Intents/Objectives/Purpose (from Aoka's IDAE Model)
Science 10 Program of Studies (Pedagogic Purpose): “Students should be encouraged to develop affective attributes of scientists at work; such as, respect for evidence, tolerance of uncertainty, intellectual honesty, creativity, perseverance, cooperation, curiosity and a desire to understand. … [Initiate and plan an experiment.] Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding … of the central role of evidence in the accumulation of knowledge, and the ways proposed theories may be supported, modified and refuted. … Students will be able to: ... apply the concept of field to quantitatively explain, in terms of its source, direction and intensity, the gravitational effects of objects and systems.” (Alberta Learning, 1994, p. 3-7)
Scientific Purpose: To test our understanding of gravitational force related to the motion of a ball thrown in the air.
C. Activities                                                                                        
B. Displays/Resources
Take attendance.
Hand-out communications to individual students.
Read daily bulletin.
Check to see that individual students have completed the homework assignment.
Go over the homework from last day.
Have students mark their homework. Uncover a few of the homework solutions at a time.
Seating plan & attendance sheet
[communications as available]
Daily bulletin
Homework-check sheets
Extra homework worksheets
Transparency of solutions
1.        Introduction/Set/Advanced Organizers
·         Start by juggling one, two and then three balls in the air. Alternately, have volunteer students do some juggling.
·         Indicate that today’s lesson is to try to come to an understanding of the motion of and the force acting on a ball thrown in the air.
·         Avoid doing a review of previous scientific concepts that may link to today’s lesson.
·         Introduce the term—thought experiment. Talk about using the criterion of logical consistency to judge arguments that are made to explain natural phenomenon.
3 tennis balls
a student to juggle the balls
2.       Clarifying/Creating-Understanding/Concept-Development                        B
·         Use a parabolic trajectory for a ball being thrown in the air; e.g., 
·         Draw arrows showing the motion of the ball—going up on the left.                     C
·         Indicate three positions on the trajectory—A, B & C.                                  A
·         Ask: “What do you think the direction of the force acting on the ball
is at A, B and C?” (Use words that solicit the students’ conceptions.)
Overhead projector and screen or board with chalk or marker.
Transparency showing the trajectory of a ball in the air.
See student hypothesis sheet.
(Alternately, use chalk and blackboard.)
·         Ask students to use the provided sheet to help communicate their hypothesis.
·         Have them indicate the direction of the ball on the way up and down.
·         Now, have students draw force vectors (arrows) indicating the direction of the force acting on the ball at positions A, B & C; e.g., FÝ, Fß or F= 0 (zero).
·         It is important that students do this work on their own without consulting peers.
o        Alternately, using social constructivism (rather than personal constructivism) students may work in groups to form a common hypothesis.
Student hypothesis sheet.
Overhead projector and screen for a transparency of the student sheet.
3.       Coached/Guide-Practice/Seatwork
·         Discuss the validity of the arguments used in this thought experiment. Discuss the criteria used to judge assertions; e.g., logical and consistent thought.
·         Discuss the evaluation of personal (or group) hypotheses.
Refer to Newton’s second law (F = ma)—where the acceleration and unbalanced force are in the same direction. Refer to the constancy of the force of gravity.
·         If available, run the computer simulation/applet for the modeling of the force acting on a cannon ball projected vertically into the air.
·         Provide students with their homework exercise.
Refer to the text—Logical Reasoning in Science and Technology (LoRST)—by Glen Aikenhead.
MAP applet from Alberta Learning, Physics 20, website.
Computer and projector or TV.
Homework exercise
·         Walk around and use individual interventions to provide coaching/guidance.
·         As appropriate, use a group intervention to re-teach or reinforce concepts or instructions that have surfaced from individual questions or interventions.
4.       Closure/Summary
·         Review the idea of a thought experiment.
·         Review the forces acting on a ball that is thrown near-vertically into the air.
Use the trajectory transparency.
5.        Solitary Practice/Homework
·         If appropriate, ask students to ask their parents/relatives at home the same question that was asked in class today.
·         Complete the homework exercise for next day.
Trajectory drawing
Student hypothesis sheet
Homework exercise
6.       Review/Assessment
·         Periodically review the forces involved in trajectory motion and the usefulness of thought experiments.
·         Include this trajectory law and the logical testing of hypotheses on future tests.
Trajectory transparency
Homework exercise solutions
Quizzes, and chapter and unit exams
D. Evaluation/Reflection (of/on lesson)
This lesson was built on a lesson plan format resulting from research on the lessons presented by teachers who were identified by their peers as being excellent teachers. (Rosenshine, 1986). This particular lesson started with a juggling act to get the students’ attention and to motivate them to learn. The lesson then follows the Rosenshine lesson plan format from introduction through clarifying and guided practice to closure. All components of lesson plans (written or unwritten) used by excellent teachers are employed. The combination of the experience of the excellent teachers and the research of Roseshine leads me to test and use this approach.
Since this is a constructivist lesson, it purposely does not review and link the new concept to old concepts—it was left to the students to do the initial linking. Personal hypotheses are stated/created and tested in this lesson—tested logically, in a thought experiment. Personal (private) hypotheses are used rather than the accepted scientific (public) hypothesis, so that students’ prior knowledge can be brought forward and tested. Constructivist research indicates that, if students are allowed to test personal hypotheses that are mis/pre/alternate/prior conceptions, then conceptual change is more likely to occur. Not only is the conceptual change likely to be immediate, but is more likely to be a long lasting change, beyond the next test and beyond this course.
This lesson employs a thought experiment rather than a hands-on (laboratory) experiment. The reason for this is that the force acting on an object that is thrown into the air is not directly measurable. Students are asked to make predictions but the predictions are tested by logical and consistent thought rather than by experiment. The create-test-use cycle applies equally well to logical thought as it does to laboratory work. The hidden curriculum goals for learning about logical thought are made explicit.
The opportunity to use the U of A MAP (Modular Approach to Physics) Project applet to model the throwing of an object vertically in the air allows students to test their personal (private) hypotheses. Students make their hypotheses as to the direction of the unbalanced force acting on the object at A, B and C, and then the computer model runs/shows the consequence of their personal hypothesis. If their personal hypothesis is in conflict with the scientific (public) hypothesis, then the object moves in a different path than the observed path from students’ experience and from what was observed during the juggling act in the lesson introduction. This also allows an opportunity to introduce the topic of computer modeling/simulations; i.e., a model is built upon hypotheses.
This lesson plan reflects a synthesis of hypothetico-inductive reasoning, of Rosenshine’s concept of a lesson, and of the constructivists’ concept of a lesson. The most obvious innovation is to have students test (and falsify if necessary) their own hypotheses rather than testing the given scientific hypothesis.