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1.3 PHYSICAL SCIENCES, *pedagogy

Publication Details

DIT Teaching Fellowship Reports 2014-2015


The development of a strategic, thoughtful and reflective approach to the undertaking of experimental work is key to the development of physicists and physical scientists. This project undertook to remodel senior physics laboratories to adapt to changing skillsets required in the workplace and to instil the graduate attributes necessary for flexible employment in physics and related disciplines. The objective of this project was to foster an enquiry-based model that has been shown both to help engage the students with their subject and develop habits of experimental approach appropriate to physical scientists. The project used e-assessment methods and electronic documentation of student experimental planning, reflection and data recording, while adjusting laboratory instructions and resources. These adjustments included minimising experimental procedures such that this created a less restrictive and more free-form experimental experience, challenging the students to plan prior to experimental work and reflect afterwards. A number of evaluation techniques were used to measure the impact of these changes, including an anonymised on-line survey using the University of Colorado E-CLASS (Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Experimental Physics) survey and peer evaluation of experimental reports. The E-CLASS survey was also taken by School of Physics staff to provide a measure of the expert view. The success of this new approach to laboratory instruction is seen in the general alignment between student views of issues of importance in experimental approach. This innovative approach to laboratory instruction will continue to be evaluated and refined for future student cohorts.