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ERIC Number: EJ1132498
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 9
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-2469-9896
Developing Skills versus Reinforcing Concepts in Physics Labs: Insight from a Survey of Students' Beliefs about Experimental Physics
Wilcox, Bethany R.; Lewandowski, H. J.
Physical Review Physics Education Research, v13 n1 p010108-1-010108-9 Jan-Jun 2017
Physics laboratory courses have been generally acknowledged as an important component of the undergraduate curriculum, particularly with respect to developing students' interest in, and understanding of, experimental physics. There are a number of possible learning goals for these courses including reinforcing physics concepts, developing laboratory skills, and promoting expert-like beliefs about the nature of experimental physics. However, there is little consensus among instructors and researchers interested in the laboratory learning environment as to the relative importance of these various learning goals. Here, we contribute data to this debate through the analysis of students' responses to the laboratory-focused assessment known as the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Experimental Physics (E-CLASS). Using a large, national data set of students' responses, we compare students' E-CLASS performance in classes in which the instructor self-reported focusing on developing skills, reinforcing concepts, or both. As the classification of courses was based on instructor self-report, we also provide additional description of these courses with respect to how often students engage in particular activities in the lab. We find that courses that focus specifically on developing lab skills have more expert-like post-instruction E-CLASS responses than courses that focus either on reinforcing physics concepts or on both goals. Within first-year courses, this effect is larger for women. Moreover, these findings hold when controlling for the variance in post-instruction scores that is associated with pre-instruction E-CLASS scores, student major, and student gender.
American Physical Society. One Physics Ellipse 4th Floor, College Park, MD 20740-3844. Tel: 301-209-3200; Fax: 301-209-0865; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE1432204; PHY1125844