Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Introduction to Open-Ended Projects in Physics - Guest post by Sabrina Stanley

Today's guest post is by Hoover High School teacher, Sabrina Stanley. As I was visiting classrooms last week, Sabrina was in the hallway with her students as they were doing motion experiments. We chatted a bit and she told me about one of the first assignments she gave to her physics students this year. I asked her to write a blog post about her experience.

I gave students the prompt to create a 2 minute video on “Motion.”  These were only three parameters: 1) it had to be a video, 2) length of 2 minutes, and 3) subject of motion. 

I expected that an open ended assignment would appeal to teenagers’ creativity and need for individualization.  What I have encountered, in some instances, is discomfort and unease.  Some students are conditioned to operate with a rubric which prescribes exactly what to include and how to format it.  These students are completely out of their comfort zone since their options are limitless; they have not accepted that the decisions they make about their project can earn them full credit. 

When I polled the class their opinions ranged from “Love it!” to “Hate it!”  The ones who do not prefer this assignment platform said they didn’t like it because it was vague, there were too many options, they were lacking ideas, and it didn’t tell them what to do.  One student said, “I like for you to tell me what to do so I can get it done without having to go through the planning process.”  

This reinforces to me that my students need more open-ended prompts such as this to get them engaged in the learning process.  The videos students are submitting range from boring to exciting.  I think the videos reflect the students’ personal levels of creativity as well as engagement; the videos are as diverse as the students.  While this project is appealing to a specific subset of my student population, and I’m glad they have this creative outlet to explore physics, this is only one of many methods I will use to involve my students in learning physics.

Click the link below to see one of my students’ videos:

What do you think about Sabrina's experience? Can you relate?


  1. Jennifer and Sabrina, I encounter the exact problems. I can't speak for Hoover as I'm certain others are providing experiences like this one, but at my school I think it's evidence that students definitely need exposure to more experiences like this. I can imagine how my students would respond to such a project! It definitely would be a struggle.

  2. This is so true and so important. I find this to be the case with my daughter and my son. Sometimes I think we structure so much for our kids that we stifle their creativity. I know I am guilty of this at home. My kids have a hard time entertaining themselves without an ipad. If we are not careful we are going to raise a group of children that have lost all creativity. Great piece, and I will do all that can to change this in my school and in my house.