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Abstract Title: The hidden curriculum in laboratory data analysis – development of a diagnostic test and initial results
Abstract: During the course of a Physics degree, our students spend a long time in the laboratory.  As well as learning how to 'do' practical physics, we also expect them to pick up skills in processing, analysing and interpreting data.  These skills frequently fall into the hidden curriculum: they may not be explicitly taught (instead being 'absorbed' as a side-effect of other activities) and are often not specifically assessed.  So do our students really attain a solid grasp of them?

We have developed and validated a 23-item MCQ diagnostic test on data handling skills in the physical sciences, incorporating such concepts as precision and accuracy, quantitative error analysis, graphical representations and lines of best fit.  The test instrument has been evaluated using a trial cohort of over 1200 students in 10 institutions across the UK and Ireland and has been found to perform satisfactorily on widely-used measures of reliability.

Our initial findings show that overall student attainment in these areas is surprisingly consistent across all institutions, disciplines and educational levels.  In particular, there seems to be no clear development of student ability after the initial year of instruction, with widespread stagnation of student skill levels in the later years of the degree.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster

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Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Ross Galloway
University of Edinburgh
Room 5414, JCMB
King's Buildings
Edinburgh, United Kingdom EH9 3JZ
and Co-Presenter(s)
Simon Bates, University of Edinburgh
Helen Maynard-Casely, University of Edinburgh
Hilary Singer, University of Edinburgh
Kate Slaughter, University of Edinburgh