Research conducted by Kinetic Books, and the research of others, heavily influenced the design of the products. In addition, the products were tested in dozens of sessions in the company's in-house test facility.
Those familiar with academic research into curriculum design
will note elements in our products that reflect that research.
The structure of our sample problems, derivations and interactive
checkpoints reflects the basic paradigm that good problem solvers
use [Reif, Larkin and Brackett, AJP, March 1976, to cite
one source]. Consistent with the academic research, the students
who tested the products much appreciated the fact that we
use a consistent approach to problems and derivations.
The use of hints and incremental help is also widely supported
by research, and you can see them applied in the products.
Amusingly, what we call "strategy," the students
called "hints," more in line with the research literature.
|"When working through a problem,
one could choose to plug in the variables, go step-by-step,
see the concept or equations, etc. I would know immediately
if I had put in the wrong number. This real-time feedback
is not available from a traditional textbook."
-A Seattle high school student.
Another aspect of our design is that the products
take advantage of the inquiry-based approach to the teaching
of science. Both the labs and the textbooks expose the students
to phenomena, encourage them to make hypotheses about the
underlying functioning of these phenomena, and then test their
Constructionists should appreciate our multiple spreadsheets. They provide great starting points for further exploration.
The basic approach of our chapters reflects the work of many,
including The Understanding By Design Handbook
(McTighe/Wiggins), and while their work deals with curriculum
in general, we found it quite helpful in our topic area. For
instance, the idea of using an introduction simulation to
establish the main idea of a chapter early on reflects their
We also heavily relied on the input of teachers, professors
and students when creating our products. To cite a few examples:
- The tables of variables in sample problems and derivations were considered essential.
- The sample problems all have "reasons" alongside each step. Students told us they often had a difficult time understanding how a textbook moved from one step to another. A textbook might be substituting; simplifying; re-arranging; evaluating; and so forth. All steps have brief phrases that explain the reason the step can be made. For many students, this is enough. Others need more help than a phrase can supply, and those students can click on the step to see additional detail.
- Citing the physics principles being used. Professors/teachers
want the students to focus on the key concepts, of course.
That is why they are cited explicitly in the strategy and
as a section unto themselves in each sample problem and
derivation. Physics is about applying these principles.
By stating them explicitly (instead of saying "equation
34.11") or just assuming that students know them, we
stress their importance.
- Instructors want to link principles to applications; they want context. In the thermodynamics section, as we move through the various processes (adiabatic, isothermal, etc.), they are all part of a single engine cycle. The students see how processes form a cycle and this leads naturally to discussions of the work done during a cycle, and how a cycle returns the engine to its initial state.
- Scrolling is acceptable. Modern students are more than
comfortable with scrolling through long documents (like
the labs). Breaking the lab into separate pages was viewed
as a negative.
- The use of a consistent and simple page design. We are keenly aware that print textbooks have more varied page layouts, but at least on a computer monitor, variety was viewed as a distracting feature, not a benefit.
Experience the product