This article describes an exploration into improving the process and the outcome of learning in interactive teaching at the first-year university physics level, using what is becoming widely known as the “variation approach to learning.” To explore this approach we chose an area of mechanics that is widely known to pose learning difficulties for students—Newton's third law. Test and interview data provided compelling evidence that explicit use of variation made a difference in student learning outcomes.

1.
Rachel E.
Scherr
and
Edward F.
Redish
, “
Newton's zeroth law: Learning from listening to our students
,”
Phys. Teach.
43
,
41
45
(Jan.
2005
).
2.
David R.
Sokoloff
and
Ronald K.
Thornton
, “
Using interactive lecture demonstrations to create an active learning environment
,”
Phys. Teach.
35
,
340
347
(Sept.
1997
).
3.
F. Marton and A.M.B. Tsui, Classroom Discourse and the Space of Learning (Lawrence Erlbaum, NJ, 2004).
4.
P. Hewitt, Teacher's Edition Conceptual Physics: The High School Physics Program (Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2002), p. 81.
5.
E. Mazur, Peer Instruction: A User's Manual (Prentice Hall, NJ, 1997). For example, problem 12 on p. 115.
6.
D.
Hestenes
,
M.
Wells
, and
G.
Swackhamer
, “
Force concept inventory
,”
Phys. Teach.
30
,
141
158
(March
1992
).
7.
M. F.
Pang
,
C.
Linder
, and
D. M.
Fraser
, “
Beyond lesson studies and design experiments: Using theoretical tools in practice and finding out how they work
,”
Int. Rev. Econ. Educ.
5
(
1
),
28
45
(
2006
).
8.
D. M.
Fraser
,
C.
Linder
,
S.
Allison
,
H.
Coombes
, and
J. M.
Case
, “
Using variation to enhance learning in engineering
,”
Int. J. Eng. Educ.
22
(
1
),
102
108
(
2006
).
9.
What Matters? Discovering Critical Conditions of Classroom Learning, edited by F. Marton and P. Morris (Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2002).
This content is only available via PDF.
AAPT members receive access to The Physics Teacher and the American Journal of Physics as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.