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An experience of elicited inquiry elucidating the electron transport in semiconductor crystals

  • Authors: Persano Adorno, D.; Pizzolato, N.; Fazio C; Battaglia, OR
  • Publication year: 2016
  • Type: Contributo in atti di convegno pubblicato in volume
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In this study we report the results of an inquiry-driven learning path experienced by a sample of 10 electronic engineering students, engaged to investigate the electron transport in semiconductors. The undergraduates were first instructed by following a lecture-based class on condensed matter physics and then involved into an inquiry based path of simulative explorations. The students were invited by two instructors to explore the electron dynamics in a semiconductor bulk by means of Monte Carlo simulations. The students, working in group, had to design their own procedure of exploration, as expected in a traditional guided inquiry. But they experienced several difficulties on planning and carrying out a meaningful sequence of simulative experiments, many times coming to a standstill. At this stage, the two instructors actively participated to the students’ debate on the physics governing the observed phenomena, never providing exhaustive explanations to the students, but giving comments and hints, sometimes expressly incorrect, but effective to stimulate students’ reasoning and activating a proficient scientific inquiry. The relation between this teaching intervention and student cognitive and affective development has been investigated by methods of discourse and behaviour analysis, as well as by the analysis of a student motivation/satisfaction inventory. The elicited inquiry stimulated the students to follow a question-driven path of exploration, starting from the validation of the model of electron dynamics within the semiconductor, up to performing reasoned inquiries about the observed characteristic of charge transport. Our results show that the stimulated activation of the inquiry process constitutes an efficient teaching/learning approach both to effectively engage students into an active learning and, at the same time, to clarify important experimental and technological aspects of semiconductor science, representing a viable example of integration of a traditional lecture-based teaching approach with effective learning strategies.