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A Study on Enhancing Advanced Physics Laboratory Teaching

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Physics & Physics Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

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Paper Authors


Haridas Kumarakuru Northeastern University

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Haridas Kumarakuru, PhD,
Department of Physics,
College of Science,
Northeastern University,
Boston, MA 02115

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Don Heiman Northeastern University

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Don Heiman, PhD, Department of Physics, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115

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Bala Maheswaran Northeastern University

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Bala Maheswaran, PhD
Northeastern University
367 Snell Engineering Center
Boston, MA 02115

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Introductory physics laboratory (IPL) courses are designed to educate students on general physics topics. However, in-depth physics courses should be available for students who are interested in pursuing advanced degrees in science stream. Advanced physics laboratory (APL) course provides a better platform for students to prepare themselves for a graduate research laboratory. APL experiments were designed beyond the simple demonstration of fundamental physics concepts and, explored by in depth data analysis and scientific documentation. The aims of the APL were to make students 1. intimately familiar with each apparatus in order to record precise as well as accurate data set, 2. determine the uncertainties in both measured and calculated values, 3. improve their trouble shooting skills, 4. provide training in formal scientific documentation and 5. observe and discuss the deviation between initial expectation from theory and real life experimental systems. The first week of the course was dedicated in refreshing some important concepts of physics relevant to the experiments. Although many of the experiments were given as cookbook recipes, APL lab manuals were designed to provoke their thought process. A duration of 400 minutes was given to complete each experiments in the lab and at the end of each week students were requested to submit a complete printed formal lab report. Interactive discussions were employed among fellow students, teaching assistants and instructor upon completion of a lab section. Concurrently, a weekly take home quiz was given to stimulate their thoughts outside the lab environment via external resources. At the last day of the course, an independent student survey was conducted in order to evaluate the success rate of the course in terms of achieving those proposed aims. Total of 16 students participated in the survey. The first set of questions were asked to rate the statements from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Regarding the training gained with the usage of apparatus, 11 students (69%) and four students (25%) rated as 4 and 5, respectively. Second set of questions were asked to mention as strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree. Ten students (63%) agreed and 3 students (19%) strongly agreed on take home quizzes stimulated their thought process outside the laboratory. The last part of the survey was asked to mention as “Yes”, or “No” or “Do not wish to answer”. All students (100%) voted as “yes” for a weekly take home quiz rather than a 30 minutes closed book quiz in the lab. Twelve students (75%) told that APL was very helpful for them to get ready for a graduate research lab and 14 students (87.5%) responded that they will recommend APL to friends. Our survey on APL course showed that our proposed aims are well accepted among the sampled student community.

Kumarakuru, H., & Heiman, D., & Maheswaran, B. (2017, June), A Study on Enhancing Advanced Physics Laboratory Teaching Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio.

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