Analysis of an Inquiry-based Electricity Laboratory for Undergraduate Students

Abstract views: 144 / PDF downloads: 111


  • Victor Travagin Sanches Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil
  • Tomaz Catunda University of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Jéssica Fernanda Mariano dos Santos University of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Gláucia Gomes Grüninger Costa University of São Paulo, Brazil


Electric circuits, Inquiry, Laboratory, Undergraduate


It is well known in Physics Education literature that, even after attending to Introductory Physics courses (lectures and laboratory), students still have some difficulties with direct current electric circuits’ concepts. Since 2006, we are investigating the conceptual understanding of electric circuits in Brazilian college students. We observed that only ~13% of students answered correctly a question about the brightness of bulbs in simple circuits (series and parallel). This observation motivated us to adopt new laboratory guide with active learning strategies. The activities were adapted from Tutorials in Introductory Physics. We have been observing a significant gain of students learning using the mentioned question as pre and post-tests. More recently (since 2013) we have been applying the DIRECT which consists of 28 multiple choice questions on electric circuits. This test helps to identify specific difficulties which remain after instruction. In 2016, some groups of students were recorded in audio and video in order to investigate their interaction and learning process during the class. The student’s majority evaluated positively the active learning strategies used in the course, mentioning that they contribute to their learning (~78%).


Blanton, P. (2007). Developing an inquiry lesson, Physics Teacher, 45(1), 56-57.

Bradley, J. D. (2001). UNESCO/IUPAC-CTC global program in microchemistry. Pure and Applied Chemistry, 73,1215-1219.

Costa, G.G.G., & Catunda, T. (2008). Investigação das dificuldades conceituais dos estudantes sobre circuitos elétricos. In Encontro de Pesquisa em Ensino De Física. Retrieved on 11 November 2016 from

Duit, R. & Von Rhöneck, C. (1998). Learning and understanding key concepts in electricity. In A. Tiberghien, E.-L. Jossem & J. Barojas (Eds), Connecting research in physics education with teacher education (pp. 1-10). Ohio: ICPE Books.

Engelhard, P. V., & Beichner, R. J. (2004). Students’ understanding of direct current resistive electrical circuits, American Journal of Physics, 72(1), 98–115.

Hake, R. R. (1998). Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: a six-thousand-student survey of mechanic’s test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics, 66, 64–74.

Hofstein, A. & Lunetta, V. N. (1982). The role of the laboratory in science teaching: Neglected aspects of research. Review of Educational Research, 52, 201–217.

Karamustafaoğlu S., Mamlok- Naaman, R. (2015). Understanding electrochemistry concepts using the Predict-Observe-Explain Strategy. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 11, 923-936.

Marušić, M., & Sliško, J. (2012). Influence of three different methods of teaching physics on the gain in students' development of reasoning. International Journal of Science Education. 34, 301–326.

McDermott, L. C. (1990). Millikan Lecture: What we teach and what is learned-closing the gap. American Journal of Physics, 59, 301-315.

McDermott, L.C. (1999). Physics by Inquiry. New York: Wiley.

McDermott, L. C., & Shaffer, P. S. (1992). Research as a guide to curriculum development: an example from introductory electricity. Part I: investigation of student understanding. American Journal of Physics, 60, 994-1003.

McDermott, L. C., & Shaffer, P. S. (2002). Tutorials in Introductory Physics. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Planinic M. (2006). Assessment of difficulties of some conceptual areas from electricity and magnetism using the Conceptual survey of electricity and magnetism. American Journal of Physics, 74, 1143-1148.

Roth, W. M. (1994). Experimenting in a constructivist high school physics laboratory. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 197–223

Sanches, V. T., Santos, J. F. M., Costa, G. G. G., & Catunda, T. (2016) Analysis of an Inquiry-based laboratory for undergraduate students. In 2nd World Conference on Physics Education (2nd WCPE).

Santos, J. F. M., Costa, G. G. G., & Catunda, T. (2013). Análise da inserção de atividades investigativas nas aulas experimentais em um curso de eletricidade e magnetismo no ensino superior. In Simpósio Nacional De Ensino De Física, Retrieved on 11.11.2016 from

Tipler, P.A., Mosca, G. (2009). Física Para Cientistas e Engenheiros Vol.2 - Eletricidade e Magnetismo ,Óptica.Rio de Janeiro: LTC.

White, R. (1988). Learning science. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

White, R. T., & Gunstone, R. F. (1992). Probing understanding. London: Falmer.




How to Cite

Sanches, V. T., Catunda, T., dos Santos, J. F. M., & Costa, G. G. G. (2019). Analysis of an Inquiry-based Electricity Laboratory for Undergraduate Students. International Journal of Physics and Chemistry Education, 10(3), 57–60. Retrieved from