Do our physics degrees create expert physicists?

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Talk given by Kate Slaughter at GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland

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Do our physics degrees create expert physicists?

  1. 1. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghDo our physics degrees create expert physicists? A longitudinal study using CLASSK.A. Slaughter, S.P. Bates and R.K. Galloway School of Physics and Astronomy The University of Edinburgh GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  2. 2. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghIn the next 20 minutes…• Educational context of the study• The CLASS instrument • “Normal” usage of the CLASS• Longitudinal Project • Fully longitudinal study • Cross-sectional study • Comparison of the two methods• Conclusions• Future work GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  3. 3. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghEducational Context• School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland,UK.• Traditional research based university.• Active PER group based within the School of Physics.• 1st year taught in a reformed workshop style with increasingly traditionalteaching styles at higher levels.•  2 exit points to the degree program, Bachelors of Science or Master ofPhysics. GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  4. 4. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghCLASS Survey• Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey.• Used Extensively in the US - studies emerging now from the rest ofworld.• Examines attitudes towards study rather than content knowledge.• Series of 42 attitudinal questions, compared to responses from expertphysicists.• Percentage of “expert-like” thinking. • Can calculate percentage “favorable” and “unfavorable”• Extensively validated by the survey designers. GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  5. 5. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghCLASS Survey• Normally used pre and post a period of instruction.• Key feature - student levels of expert-like decline after first year ofuniversity physics teaching (unless specifically targeted)• Carried out studies with our 1st year cohort, 3 years of data collection -all record a drop in expert-like thinking after instruction.• High levels of expert-like thinking recorded.• Interesting features seen in the sub-cohorts of the class, majors/non-majors, male/female (Presented at GIREP-EPEC 2009).• Inspired the question “What happens next?” GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  6. 6. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghCLASS Survey• Little work published on CLASS scores over time.• Time involved in tracking the students - problem.• We have started a study of our student attitudes as they progressthrough the degree program.• 2 possible methods….. GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  7. 7. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghFully Longitudinal method• Same cohort of students are surveyed as they progress through thedegree program.• Advantages • Can track individual students removing the need to make assumptions about the similarity of the cohort. • External factors don’t matter.• Disadvantages • Time • Sample size getting smaller with each measurement GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  8. 8. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghFully Longitudinal method N=35 GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  9. 9. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghCross-sectional• All data collected in the same academic year and inter year comparisonsare drawn.• First study of this type carried out by Gire et al.• Advantages • Can be done without waiting for the cohort to progress • Not effected by N diminishing• Disadvantages • Have to assume all cohorts are the same• Can test this assumption using 3 years of 1st year data - no significantdifferences found in any of the data. GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  10. 10. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghCross-sectional method N=625 GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  11. 11. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghValidation of methods• Can use the fully longitudinal data to validate the cross-sectional method.•  Data collected in fully longitudinal study compared to the correspondingyears of data in the cross-sectional method. GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  12. 12. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghValidation of methodsNo significant difference found between methods for any of the three years. GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  13. 13. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghConclusions• Students come in with high levels of expert-like thinking and remain high.• Expert-like thinking appears to be flat during undergraduate study.• Appear to be transitions at entry and exit points to an undergraduatedegree.• Results from the first three years of a fully-longitudinal study suggest across-sectional method is valid. GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  14. 14. Physics Education Research The University of EdinburghFuture work• Gender differences in the cohort.• When are these expertise formed? • Study in high schools ongoing• Final data collection spring 2012 • Correlation of CLASS scores to career destinations and final degree grades? GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland
  15. 15. Physics Education Research The University of Edinburgh Thank you for your time. k.a.slaughter@ed.ac.uk www.ph.ed.ac.uk/physics-education-researchReferencesCLASS Design and Validation"A new instrument for measuring student beliefs about physics and learning physics: the Colorado Learning Attitudes aboutScience Survey."W. K. Adams, K. K. Perkins, N. Podolefsky, M. Dubson, N. D. Finkelstein and C. E. Wieman, Phys. Rev ST: Phys. Educ.Res. 2, 1, 010101 (2006).First Year CLASS at the University of Edinburgh“The changes in attitudes and beliefs of first year physics undergraduates: A study using the CLASS survey”K.A.Slaughter, S.P. Bates and R.K. Galloway, International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education.Publication Pending (2011)Cross-sectional Study using CLASS“Characterizing the epistemological development of physics majors”E. Gire, B. Jones and E. Price Phys. Rev ST: Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 010103 (2009). GIREP-EPEC, August 2011 - Jyväskylä, Finland

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