ERIC Number: EJ1154169
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Abstractor: As Provided
Students' Views about the Nature of Experimental Physics
Wilcox, Bethany R.; Lewandowski, H. J.
Physical Review Physics Education Research, v13 n2 p020110-1-020110-10 Jul-Dec 2017
The physics community explores and explains the physical world through a blend of theoretical and experimental studies. The future of physics as a discipline depends on training of students in both the theoretical and experimental aspects of the field. However, while student learning within lecture courses has been the subject of extensive research, lab courses remain relatively under-studied. In particular, there is little, if any, data available that address the effectiveness of physics lab courses at encouraging students to recognize the nature and importance of experimental physics within the discipline as a whole. To address this gap, we present the first large-scale, national study (N[subscript institutions] = 75 and N[subscript students] = 7167) of undergraduate physics lab courses through analysis of students' responses to a research-validated assessment designed to investigate students' beliefs about the nature of experimental physics. We find that students often enter and leave physics lab courses with ideas about experimental physics as practiced in their courses that are inconsistent with the views of practicing experimental physicists, and this trend holds at both the introductory and upper-division levels. Despite this inconsistency, we find that both introductory and upper-division students are able to accurately predict the expert-like response even in cases where their views about experimentation in their lab courses disagree. These findings have implications for the recruitment, retention, and adequate preparation of students in physics.
Descriptors: Student Attitudes, Physics, Science Instruction, Undergraduate Study, Undergraduate Students, Laboratory Experiments, College Science, Beliefs, Scientific Principles, Introductory Courses, Advanced Courses, Expertise
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE1432204; PHY1734006