Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-4-2018

Published In

Physical Review Physics Education Research

Abstract

We explore the sources of student engagement with curricular content in an Introductory Physics for Life Science (IPLS) course at Swarthmore College. Do IPLS students find some life-science contexts more interesting than others, and, if so, what are the sources of these differences? We draw on three sources of student data to answer this question: (1) quantitative survey data illustrating how interested students were in particular contexts from the curriculum, (2) qualitative survey data in which students describe the source of their interest in these particular contexts, and (3) interview data in which students reflect on the contexts that were and were not of interest to them. We find that examples that make interdisciplinary connections with students’ other coursework in biology and chemistry, and examples that make connections to what students perceive to be the “real world,” are particularly effective at fostering interest. More generally, students describe being deeply engaged with contexts that foster a sense of coherence or have personal meaning to them. We identify various “engagement pathways” by which different life-science students engage with IPLS content, and suggest that a curriculum needs to be flexible enough to facilitate these different pathways.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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This work is freely available under a Creative Commons license.

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