May 10, 2024 Filed in: Articles

The use of video in physics as a means of teaching and learning is as old as optic obscura. I’m sure most physics teachers have a video analysis project that they can dust off and give to their students. Identifying the terrible physics in cartoons, superhero movies, or more recently, the Fast and Furious series, is a right of passage in physics teaching!

Observing the world, making measurements, and trying to make sense of what we see is at the heart of physics. Why not make that a goal in our teaching as well as our assessment? I propose using a video analysis as an end of unit assessment.

Why should you try video analysis as an assessment? Here is my case.

To create a new assessment requires finding another video on YouTube involving two-dimensional forces — snow boarding, roller coasters, anything with a ramp, YouTube can provide rich examples of two-dimensional forces in a heartbeat. Just include the link and add an additional question that points students towards an interesting aspect of theory, and you’re finished. The ease of creating an entirely new assessment means you can distribute them freely and students can practice to their heart’s content.

During assessments, I’ll play the video on repeat at the start of class for several minutes and let them have 5 minutes with a whiteboard to discuss what they saw. Then the whiteboards are whisked away, and the assessment is handed out along with a rubric and good old fashion lined paper. Students can ask for the video to be replayed for further clarification.

We know that measurement informs physics. For the situation, students are encouraged to think about what you could easily measure to use as a “given”. We don’t need a value, but we accept that a value could be attained if we had a measuring tape, timer, radar gun or scale. Due to the potential for this value to vary, we will call these terms changeables. The challenge is to create an equation with only changeables that represents the situation mathematically.

There are two added super bonuses.

First, being free from numbers allows students to start thinking about what the equation represents and how the changeables are related to each other. We can talk about proportionalities, what if’s (what if this was heavier or the displacement required was greater) and further develop the ability to describe how the mathematical relationship represents real life.

Second, would you like to teach students programming? The ability to prepare an awesome spreadsheet by learning to “program” a formula into a cell may be the greatest gift you can give for their future success (until A.I. ups its spreadsheet game). The day after the assessment, “program” the formula into Excel, iterate the equation by changing one changeable and plot the effect on another to visualize relationships. This can take an assessment and turn it into a learning opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between changeables.

(Note: Changeables was a poor attempt at mathematics humour. Variables would, of course, be the common parlance.)

Have I convinced you to give it a try? Next, let’s look at the success criteria for a video analysis.

Draw diagrams to represent the situation.

They are expected to use explanatory labels on these diagrams to explain the learning goals. In this case the learning goals involve Newton’s 2

An additional requirement is that once they develop their equation, they pick one line of their analysis and describe how it relates to the learning goals listed or the additional question.

For a collection of video analysis assessments and other problem-based learning resources, follow this link to my google drive. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at dale.simnett@peelsb.com.