Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Eric Brewe

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Laird H. Kramer

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Prem Chapagain

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Geoff Potvin

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Active Learning, Review Session, Informal Learning Community, Coding Scheme, Quantifying Students Participation, and Social Network

Date of Defense



Students’ interactions can be an influential component of students’ success in an interactive learning environment. From a participation perspective, learning is viewed in terms of how students transform their participation. However, many of the seminal papers discussing the participationist framework are vague on specific details about what student participation really looks like on a fine-grained scale. As part of a large project to understand the role of student participation in learning, this study gathered data that quantified students’ participation in three broad areas of two student-centered introductory calculus-based physics classes structured around the Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) philosophy. These three broad areas of classes were in-class learning activities, class review sessions that happened at the beginning of every class, and the informal learning community that formed outside of class time.

Using video data, classroom observations, and students’ self-reported social network data, this study quantified students’ participation in these three aspects of the class throughout two semesters. The relationship between behaviors of students’ engagement in various settings of an active learning environment and (a) their conceptual understanding (measured by FCI gain) and (b) academic success in the courses as measured by exam scores and scores on out-of-class assignments were investigated. The results from the analysis of the student interaction in the learning process show that three class components, viz. the Review Session, Learning Activities, and Informal Learning Community, play distinct roles in learning. Students who come in the class with better content knowledge do not necessarily participate more in the learning activities of active learning classrooms. Learning Communities serve as a “support network” for students to finish assignments and help students to pass the course. Group discussions, which are facilitated by students themselves, better help students in gaining conceptual understanding. Since patterns of students’ participation do not change significantly over time, instructors should try to ensure greater participation by incorporating different learning activities in the active learning classroom.





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