|Subjects: The participants were all students
at the York Campus of The Pennsylvania State University enrolled in an
introductory college physics class for people majoring in sciences or engineering.
The 16 subjects in the control group (conventional labs) took the class
during the fall semester 1996. The 17 subjects in the experimental
group (Tarzan Swing labs) enrolled during the spring semester 1997.
The courses were taught by two different instructors, in the fall by an
assistant professor and in the spring by an instructor.
The evaluation consisted of the following:
1) A comprehensive multiple choice physics (mechanics) test containing
conceptual questions and algebra/trig. based mathematical physics questions.
The same test was administered to both the control group and the Tarzan
Swing group both before (Pretest) and after (Posttest) the relevant lab
instruction. The results are shown in the graph Physics Achievement
2) Attitude and motivational testing mechanisms (shown below)
where administered to both groups before and after the relevant lab instruction.
Surprisingly, this part of the study showed no significant differences
between the groups. However, the trained observer noted increased
excitement and motivation in the Tarzan Swing group. She noted that
it is possible that the testing mechanisms used for this part of the study
did not provide accurate feedback. The testing mechanisms used are
3) A trained observer attended the control group labs and the
Tarzan Swing group labs. The observer carefully observed and recorded
the time student groups spent on various tasks during the lab. The
Laboratory Observation Form is shown below. Interesting aspects of
this part of the study are shown in the Calculations graph and Cognitive
Behavior graph below.
Limitations: There are some significant limitations to
this study, and at best it should be seen as a small evaluation of an innovative
instructional process. First, the very small sample size limits generalizability
and hinders the ability to detect differences. Second, there were
only two instructors involved, again limiting generalizability of these
results to other instructors with other populations of students.
Also, the instructor was confounded with treatment (one instructor did
one kind of lab and the other instructor did the other lab), so it is impossible
to disentangle the impact of the instructor from the impact of the lab
Finally, this evaluation only looked at a small number of laboratory
activities, so it is hard to make conclusions to other content from this