Lab courses are complex learning environments that involve hands-on activities, such as designing, building, and using apparatus, and also brains-on activities, such as asking and answering questions, sense-making, explaining, collaboration, quantitative and conceptual reasoning, documenting, writing, and presenting.
Although creating a good hands-on and brains-on lab is a daunting challenge, I argue that modeling (i.e., building, testing, and refining scientific models) is one key pillar of lab pedagogy.
I will provide a short review of several modeling-focused pedagogies that have been applied in introductory and upper-level lab courses and talk about ongoing physics education research in evaluating students’ model-based reasoning in labs.
Finally, the talk will reflect on the two-way relationship between modeling and technology in lab courses. Technology enables an emphasis on modeling in lab courses (e.g., motion sensors and data acquisition), and modeling enables a better understanding of lab technology (e.g., an oscilloscope) that students might otherwise treat as a mysterious black box.