Mapping the transition - content and pedagogy from school through university
Slaughter, Katherine Alice
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A study has been carried out at the University of Edinburgh in order to examine how physics students’ abilities and attitudes towards study change during their time at university. This is a large topic with numerous possible avenues of research, as a result the field has been narrowed for this thesis in order to focus on three main subject areas; how students adapt during the transition from school to university, how students attitudes towards studying physics change during an undergraduate degree and, finally, student data handling skills in the undergraduate laboratory with links to whether student perceptions of their data handling skills are consistent with their ability. It has been found that students may face difficulties going from school to university study. Students potentially face gaps in their prior learning due to differences in school leaving qualification syllabi, which is compounded by instructors having expectations of student ability that are higher than student actual ability. It has been seen that students become less positive in their attitudes towards study over the course of their first year of instruction, potentially due to a drop in confidence. In the subject area of attitudes towards study, longitudinal studies have been carried out in order to examine the expert-like thinking of students. Results gathered are suggestive of a selection effect with the most expert-like thinkers possessing levels of expert thinking similar to those of physics instructors, even when initially entering the degree program. Investigation of student laboratory work has shown that there is a large gap between student estimations of their own ability and the reality of such skills. This has been demonstrated by contrasting the results of surveys examining student perceptions towards practical work with data gathered from a data handling diagnostic test that has been designed and implemented as part of this thesis.