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ENGINEERING STUDENTS’ BELIEFS ABOUT THE NATURE OF EXPERIMENTAL PHYSICS AT A SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITY

L. Reddy

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
A physics laboratory holds an important place in the Science Education curriculum and it is a place where meaningful experimental investigations unfolds. Once students are engaged in experimental work, they have an opportunity of developing a better understanding of the beliefs about the nature and importance of experimental work. In order to measure such beliefs, use is made of a research-based assessment tool called the “Colorado Attitudes about Science Survey” (E- CLASS) for experimental physics work. In particular, the beliefs about the nature of experimental work of three Engineering groups of students from a South African university is used in this survey. To obtain an expert-like view of the assessments, the views of three teachers were also taken into consideration. Results reveal views about the nature of experimental work to be largely positive from both the students and teachers in this survey. In particular, there were high levels of agreement for items relating to correct experimental procedures, use of relevant equations in physics, the importance of group work dynamics and the role played by experimental physics in promoting scientific growth. Further, this research points to the value of experimental work in the enrichment of scientific knowledge.