The Changes in Attitudes and Beliefs of First Year Physics Undergraduates: A Study Using the CLASS Survey

Katherine A. Slaughter, Simon P. Bates, Ross K. Galloway


Personal attitudes and beliefs towards learning can influence the way students approach and study a subject; as a result, evaluation of attitudes and how these change over time is becoming increasingly common. We have carried out a study looking at the changes in attitudes of first year physics students over two years at the University of Edinburgh. The Colorado Learning Attitudes About Science Survey (CLASS) was used to obtain a measure of expert-like thinking for students both pre- and post- first year teaching. The results have been subdivided to look at the differences between physics `majors' and `non-majors' as well as the differences in attitudes of female and male students. It was found, in line with previous studies, that students' levels of expert-like thinking decline after initial instruction. When the data was subdivided to look in more detail at specific sections of the undergraduate class it was seen that the decrease in expert-like thinking is much more marked in `non-majors' - those students not intending to take physics as a degree - and also greater in female students than their male peers.

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