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Rethinking Intro Physics Labs

Holmes When you ask physicists to reflect on their intro labs, responses include “boring”, “forgettable”, or “cookbook.” Enthusiastic responses usually come from students whose courses were non-traditional: they got to design their own experiments, build their own equipment, or choose their own topics. Across institutions, there has been little consensus on the goals and structures of lab courses with not much research to back up any position. Until now. In this talk, I will describe new research into the goals of lab courses, how we are measuring student progress towards those goals, and the efficacy of different approaches for achieving them. We’ll discuss some tactics for using intro labs to teach experimentation and critical thinking skills, some examples of labs, and some new research on different ways of implementing them.