An introduction to investigatory projects
Activity-based approach makes learning of Physics more interesting, motivating, effective and meaningful as it involves learning by doing and experimentation. A project provides plenty of opportunities for independent thinking, questioning, reasoning, and problem-solving in the field of science in general and Physics in particular. This also helps in developing self-confidence, curiosity, initiative, self-reliance, persistence and skills of innovation to solve problems and establish cause-effect relationship not only in the domain of Physics or science but in many other aspects of real life situation.
An investigatory project is really an extended problem or a series of related problems that are outgrowths of the pupil's own interest and endeavors at problem-solving and gives a deep insight into the intricacies of the problem-solving approach. Thus, inclusion of an investigatory project in the school curriculum is essential as it provides simple opportunities to the kids for undertaking independent activities and encourages kid's curiosity to know, investigate, observe, experiment and innovate. The investigatory project work differs from routine practical work where the known facts, contents, relations and fixed procedures are used to test or verify experimentally, what already is found out. In contrast, a project is a problem-based act carried to its completion in its natural setting to achieve the intended objective.
The effectiveness of the investigatory project demands more involvement of the teacher in planning, foresight, reading and skill. An investigatory project is an in-depth study of one or a series of related problems pertaining to the prescribed curriculum or relevant topics. Therefore, an investigatory project in Physics involves independent study, problem solving, mini-research work, open-ended work, elements of creativeness and decision-making, thereby making learning of physics more learner-centered. However, the success of the investigatory project is primarily determined by the extent to which the pupil involves himself/herself in the whole investigation project.
The essential feature of the study of Physics is the emphasis on the project work. Conducting activities on the phenomenon that the kids learn in Physics will widen their interest in the subject and make them discover the methods of science and provide real thrill, excitement and joyous experience in the learning of Physics.
Objectives of Investigatory Projects
The objectives of an investigatory project on physics are as under:
1.To provide pupils with knowledge and skills of the laboratory, library and field work in new situations.
2.To develop scientific outlook and familiarity with the processes and methods of science.
3.To provide pupils with experience to scientific research in miniature form, acquainting them with the process of generation of scientific knowledge.
4.To arouse spirit of enquiry, develop mental alertness and promote innovative attitude.
5.The encourage creativity and enrich personal experience of pursuing scientific discovery.
6.To cultivate interest and dynamism in learning Physics.
7.To inculcate spirit of cooperation and intellectual honesty.
8.To train the kids in writing scientific reports.
Steps in undertaking a Project
From selection of the project to prioritizing it and executing it, there are a lot of aspects that should be taken care of. Some of these are:
1.Selection of the Project
The investigatory project in Physics at the senior secondary stage may be undertaken from any area of physics familiar to the kid. The project may also be selected from topics included in the curriculum but having inadequate coverage or it may be from any interdisciplinary area. It may also be related to applications in everyday life or study of the environment/nature. The choice of the project will also depend on the kid's interest, the teacher's competence in guiding and the availability of facilities and resources. A project may not be necessarily be sophisticated laboratory-based investigation, since many elegant investigations can be conducted in the environment, using the commonly available items, materials and apparatus. However, efforts should be made to make the maximum use of the best facilities, available in the school to undertake more sophisticated projects. The in-depth study in the investigatory project will depend more on the interest, inquisitiveness and effort of both teacher and student than on the availability of equipment and apparatus.
2. Planning Project
An investigatory project begins with a question that must be answered through the investigation. It is often observed that pupil at the initial stage has difficulty in identifying and stating the problem to be investigated and may need direction and guidance from the teacher. The teacher has to help in developing laboratory skills and thought processes, imparting ability to follow, think in sequence, identifying and stating problem in a practical form that can be shaped into a seemingly feasible and realistic investigatory study. Then a phased planning is necessary, working out probable requirements regarding to tools, apparatus and instruments, essential practical skills, source of gathering information and consulting literature etc.
3.Executing a Project
Teacher can give assistance in the form of hints and clues so as to encourage and motivate the pupil to utilize his/her potential and enable him/her in correcting mistakes. The pupil should work as a real scientist in the making, discovering new ideas through investigation. The pupils' independent thinking in terms of planning execution, interpretation and reporting of the project should be constantly under the guidance and observation by the teacher at all stages of investigation.
4.Reporting of the Project
The format of the project report may include:
•Title of the project.
•Introduction in which the background of the problem investigated by the pupil will be highlighted.
•Research questions or hypothesis to be tested.
•Apparatus, items and material used in the investigation.
•Experimental procedure giving the actual steps employed.
•Observations recording and tabulation of data in the form of graphs and tables based on relevant observations and experiments.
•Discussion, interpretation of data and conclusions on the experimental observations, finding, linking with or contradicting the existing findings wherever possible, based on original phenomena rather than being arbitrary.
•Suggestions for further work mentioning relevant problems faced and further investigations required.
•An acknowledgement of assistance and guidance.