Using quantitative methods to analyse educational interventions in undergraduate physics teaching

McAllister, Catriona (2023) Using quantitative methods to analyse educational interventions in undergraduate physics teaching. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The physicist’s approach to understanding the universe is to strive to uncover the basic rules that govern the behaviour of the natural world around us. Physics provides a way to create a model of the world that is testable through quantitative measurements and observation. Using this philosophy as a basis, this manuscript presents a quantitative model of 5 aspects of a particular educational setting. Firstly, a framework to understand how to quantify the efficacy of an assessment is presented using Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Force Concept Inventory. The aim of this framework was to identify if there is a key skill or metric to success in physics. The results of this project identified the impact of not only students’ conceptual understanding and mathematical skill but the format of the assessment itself. Secondly is presented an analysis of the intrinsic, internal factors which impact student performance. Through this analysis it was shown that students’ prior knowledge and metacognitive skill have the most significant impacts on their performance. A two part analysis of group dynamics from a purely quantitative perspective was then undertaken, building on the results from the first two projects. This project posited a quantitative way to define the dynamic within a group so as to show the relationship with student performance. While there is a high level of complexity within group dynamics which can obscure the effect of any one variable, the impact of cognitive diversity can still be seen in overall assessment results. The final project, building on the work of Carl Wieman, analyses the impact of a new style of laboratory teaching on student performance in overall assessment. A significant impact was found in the final assessment results for questions relating to the laboratory material. This is an exciting result as the impact of laboratory teaching has been historically inconclusive. These projects created a quantitative lens through which to understand physics education research, especially for specific research areas which are predominantly considered in a qualitative way. These projects demonstrate a way that physics education research can be integrated into any undergraduate physics course, by applying physics methodologies to educational data available to all physics educators.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the University of Glasgow.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Q Science > QC Physics
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Physics and Astronomy
Supervisor's Name: Yao, Dr. Eric
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83495
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2023 15:54
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2023 09:55
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83495

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