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Chemistry vs. Physics: A Comparison of How Biology Majors View Each Discipline

June 18, 2007

A student's beliefs about science and learning science may be more or less sophisticated depending on the specific science discipline. In this study, we used the physics and chemistry versions of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) to measure student beliefs in the large, introductory physics and chemistry courses, respectively. We compare how biology majors -- generally required to take both of the courses -- view these two disciplines. We find that these students' beliefs are more sophisticated about physics (more like the experts in that discipline) than they are about chemistry. At the start of the term, the average % Overall Favorable score on the CLASS is 59% in physics and 53% in chemistry. The students' responses are statistically more expert-like in physics than in chemistry on 10 statements (P lesser-than-or-equal-to 0.01), indicating that these students think chemistry is more about memorizing disconnected pieces of information and sample problems, and has less to do with the real world. In addition, these students' view of chemistry degraded over the course of the term. Their favorable scores shifted -5.7% and -13.5% in 'Overall' and the 'Real World Connection' category, respectively; in the physics course, which used a variety of research-based teaching practices, these scores shifted 0.0% and +0.3%, respectively. The chemistry shifts are comparable to those previously observed in traditional introductory physics courses.

Towards characterizing the relationship between students' interest in and their beliefs about physics

December 2, 2005

We examine the relationships between students' self-reported interest and their responses to a physics beliefs survey. Results from the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS v3), collected in a large calculusbased introductory mechanics course (N=391), were used to characterize students' beliefs about physics and learning physics at the beginning and end of the semester. Additionally students were asked at the end of the semester to rate their interest in physics, how it has changed, and why. We find a correlation between surveyed beliefs and self-rated interest (R=0.65). At the end of the term, students with more expert-like beliefs as measured by the 'Overall' CLASS score also rate themselves as more interested in physics. An analysis of students' reasons for why their interest changed showed that a sizable fraction of students cited reasons tied to beliefs about physics or learning physics as probed by the CLASS survey. The leading reason for increased interest was the connection between physics and the real world.

A New Instrument For Measuring Student Beliefs About Physics and Learning Physics: The Colorado Learning Attitudes About Science Survey

October 4, 2005

The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) is a new instrument designed to measure student beliefs about physics and about learning physics. This instrument extends previous work by probing additional aspects of student beliefs and by using wording suitable for students in a wide variety of physics courses. The CLASS has been validated using interviews, reliability studies, and extensive statistical analyses of responses from over 5000 students. In addition, a new methodology for determining useful and statistically robust categories of student beliefs has been developed. This paper serves as the foundation for an extensive study of how student beliefs impact and are impacted by their educational experiences. For example, this survey measures: that most teaching practices cause substantial drops in student scores; that a student's likelihood of becoming a physics major correlates with their 'Personal Interest' score; and that, for a majority of student populations, women's scores in some categories, including 'Personal Interest' and 'Real World Connections', are significantly different than men's scores.

Correlating Student Beliefs With Student Learning Using The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey

May 11, 2005

A number of instruments have been designed to probe the variety of attitudes, beliefs, expectations, and epistemological frames taught in our introductory physics courses. Using a newly developed instrument -- the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS)[1] -- we examine the relationship between students' beliefs about physics and other educational outcomes, such as conceptual learning and student retention. We report results from surveys of over 750 students in a variety of courses, including several courses modified to promote favorable beliefs about physics. We find positive correlations between particular student beliefs and conceptual learning gains, and between student retention and favorable beliefs in select categories. We also note the influence of teaching practices on student beliefs.

The Design and Validation of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey

May 10, 2005

The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) is a new instrument designed to measure various facets of student attitudes and beliefs about learning physics. This instrument extends previous work by probing additional facets of student attitudes and beliefs. It has been written to be suitably worded for students in a variety of different courses. This paper introduces the CLASS and its design and validation studies, which include analyzing results from over 2400 students, interviews and factor analyses. Methodology used to determine categories and how to analyze the robustness of categories for probing various facets of student learning are also described. This paper serves as the foundation for the results and conclusions from the analysis of our survey data