Contributed Talk - Splinter Education
Studying Astronomy and Physics Students’ Beliefs about Physics and Learning Physics Using PBI: A Design-based Implementation Research Study
Cormac Larkin, May Lee, Steven Hoekstra
ARI/MPIK/MPIA/RUG, RUG, RUG
To prepare students in meeting future STEM-based challenges, they need to develop 21st-century skills. These skills are mediated by an individual’s beliefs about the nature of scientific knowledge and practices, or epistemological beliefs. Because previous studies have produced mixed results with respect to the successfulness of instructional approaches and learning environments that can support students’ development of sophisticated beliefs, additional research is needed. One instructional approach that aligns with the goal of developing these beliefs is problem-based instruction (PBI), which encourages collaborative self-directed learning while working on open-ended problems. We used a mixed methods qualitative approach to examine how implementing PBI in a physics course (waves and optics) taught at the University of Groningen affects Astronomy and Physics students' beliefs about physics. Analysis of the data collected from course surveys from the first implementation shows that students were generally positive about their learning experiences with PBI. A validated survey on epistemological beliefs about physics was completed by the second cohort of students in a subsequent implementation of PBI for the same course; analysis of the responses showed that students’ beliefs mostly shifted favorably towards more expert-like responses despite some of the negative experiences they encountered (e.g., access to equipment, collaboration with peers). The findings from this study can inform other courses interested in developing students’ epistemological beliefs about STEM.