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Physical Physics – Learning and Assessing Light Concepts in a novel way

  • Yvonne Kavanagh (a1) and Damien Raftery (a2)

Physics forms a core subject on any Materials Science and Engineering programme. In order to engage first year undergraduate students in the formal education environment, motivating the students is fundamental to ensuring their success. This qualitative study focuses on the use of technology to assess a student’s comprehension of fundamental light phenomena. A knowledge of light phenomena is essential in Materials Science, for the characterization of materials, where electromagnetic (EM) radiation is used as an analytical tool. Using visible light, students can easily see what is happening and when they have to capture digital evidence of the phenomena they focus on the event.

Physical Physics a structured guided approach which initially leads the students through the theory and problem solving. It provides the knowledge scaffold the students require to allow them to use their individual creativity to express their understanding. In this case, understanding is captured and assessed by the production of a portfolio of original photographs of Light phenomena taken by the student.

In addition to a traditional lecture exposition, Physical Physics takes an active learning approach with authentic assessment designed for deep learning. Students learn about relevant light phenomena in the familiar landscape of their world. The assessment provides opportunities for choice, creativity and reflection. It fosters students’ interest to encourage intrinsic motivation and engagement.

This approach has been successfully piloted with first year undergraduate students. Samples of the students’ work is shown. The students interviewed reveal how this approach enhanced their understanding of these Light concepts and changed their perceptions of studying Physics in general.

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1. Abrahams, I., Reiss, M., & Sharpe, RM, Studies in Science Education, 49 (2), 209251 (2013)
2. Taasoobshirazi, G., Farley, J., Learning and Individual Differences, 24, 5362 (2013)
3. P. Ramsden Learning to teach in higher education, (London: Routledge.1992), p210 (1992)
4. Biggs, J., Higher Education Research & Development, 31(1), 3955 (2012)
5. Nicol, D., (2007) Keynote Paper, Principles and good Assessment Feedback: Theory and Practise, Assessment design for learner responsibility 29-31 May 07
6. Kavanagh, Y, O’Hara, N., Palmer, R., Lowe, P. and Raftery, D., MRS Advances,1, 17. (2017)
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MRS Advances
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2059-8521
  • URL: /core/journals/mrs-advances
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