One semester of physics: What difference does it make to non-physics majors?

Australian Institute of Physics
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Australian Institute of Physics, 18th National Congress, 2008, pp. 131 - 134
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How does a semester of physics impact on students who will go on to major in disciplines other than physics, and to what extent do their experiences depend, if at all, on whether the subject has been designed specifically for nonphysics majors? In this national study, supported by funding from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC), we have surveyed students about their expectations and experiences in 35 subjects taught to non-physics majors from 22 Australian universities. Over 7000 completed surveys were returned for analysis. The surveys were carried out at the beginning and end of one semester and sought student views on matters including whether they expected links to be made between the physics subject and their major area of study, and whether they found the laboratories a positive learning experience. Here we report preliminary qualitative and quantitative findings from this study which suggests that student experiences of the subject cannot be related directly to whether the subject has been specifically designed for non-physics majors. The laboratory experience of non-physics majors is revealed as a matter deserving of attention, as 15% of all comments made to an open-ended question referred negatively to the laboratory experience compared to 4% describing positive experiences.
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