This work presents an alternative method of teaching undergraduate introductory physics laboratory. Students are presented with an experimental scenario “Rolling object on an inclined plane” and guided to develop their own laboratory activities in a studio-style setting. The overall goal of this alternative approach is to shift part of the learning responsibility to students. Through guided self-developed activities, students establish the connections between different physics concepts. Such a shift makes students active participants in the classroom, allows them to explore ideas independently, and discover through doing the exploring. Furthermore, the pedagogy is aimed at (i) motivating and actively engaging students in the learning process, (ii) helping students learn how to think independently, (iii) developing scientific ideas, and (iv) taking ownership of the learning process. Assessment of data from a 3-year pilot study showed improvement in students’ technical writing skills (30%), creative lab and research skills (6%), as well as critical thinking and quantitative skills (6%). In addition, students who participated in the study scored higher (6%) than their control group counterparts on the final exam. Other benefits are improvement in understanding of the research process and laboratory technical skills.


The authors wish to thank the School of Science and Technology (SST) for providing funds, through the Course embedded research project mini-grant initiatives, to support this style of pedagogy. This fund is part of Georgia Gwinnett College’s STEM grant initiative, which is supported by the University System of Georgia (USG) STEM Initiative phase II. This study received approval from Internal Review Board (IRB#:110068). Also, the authors want to thank Dr. Cynthia Woodbridge for the review and suggestions to the manuscript.