A CLASS Study Of Introductory Physics For Life Sciences (IPLS) At Swarthmore College

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Published In

2013 Physics Education Research Conference


To examine the effect of extensive life science applications on student attitudes to learning physics, we analyzed CLASS data from life science students taking introductory physics at Swarthmore. We compare the same students' responses from first semester, taught with a standard syllabus, to second semester, taught with extensive life science applications (IPLS). Although first semester responses become less favorable (pre to post), IPLS responses show an increase in favorable and a decrease in unfavorable responses, particularly comparing post-IPLS to post-first semester. This is noteworthy because improvement is rarely observed, even in pedagogically reformed courses. Finally, we analyzed CLASS responses by gender, major, students' stated goals in taking physics, and initial interest in physics; initial interest was determined from CLASS items chosen based on the Four-Phase Model of Interest Development. Most notably, we find that in the IPLS course, students identified as having low interest initially had the greatest gains overall.


Physics Education Research Conference 2013

Conference Dates

July 17-18, 2013

Conference Location

Portland, OR