The approach outlined in the American Journal of Physics, has significantly slowed student attrition rates for the topic year-on-year.
The tailored activities involving the LEGO cars helps students grasp theoretical concepts such as measurement error and variability and improve their lab reporting skills, engagement, and confidence.
This method has since been expanded into engineering courses as, reaching a cohort of more than 200 Flinders students.
Prof Parappilly says that many students enrol in first-year introductory physics without basic science skills or prior exposure to physics or mathematics at high school.
To help improve students' learning in their first year of university, she developed an Australian-first flipped model of team based learning (TBL) in physics. The model fuses important elements of the Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) strategy with TBL practices.
Results have found that this model of learning improves student outcomes including better student engagement, learning and understanding. Working in mixed ability groups can also promote learning gains for low potential students.
Prof Parappilly’s own passion for physics grew in Year 8 and stemmed from her like of patterns and solving small problems.
While many school students are driven away by the seemingly challenging nature of physics, Prof Parappilly has always valued the creative thinking it demands.
"Many students perceive physics as difficult without even giving it a go. They think it contains traditional material of a mathematical nature, and hence don't see the wonders or creativity in it," she says.
“If you are looking at nature, physics is there. It can explain any natural phenomena.