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AAPT recommendations for undergraduate physics laboratory curriculum

Posted by Melissa on November 23, 2014

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a subcommittee of the AAPT Committee on Laboratories to develop a set of recommendations for undergraduate physics laboratories, both introductory labs and labs beyond the first year.  Working on this project has been a lot of fun, and I hope our report provides a useful and flexible framework for faculty at a variety of different institutions.  The report was just endorsed by the AAPT Executive Board, and it’s now available online. While the written report is finished, the members of the committee hope to find  ways to allow lab instructors to continue the discussion about, and contribute specific examples to, the matrix that is at the end of the document.

If you find yourself needing to escape from that particularly annoying uncle or cousin over Thanksgiving, I’d encourage you to step away from the festivities and read the report!

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One Response to “AAPT recommendations for undergraduate physics laboratory curriculum”

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist said

    Fantastic job! I’ve only browsed the document so far, but I really like what I see. The focus on having students design experiments resonates with me quite a bit. I’ve recently been sitting through various physics labs at my own institution and the design process is the one that I’ve really noticed is lacking. They weren’t pure cookbook labs, but the students aren’t given enough opportunities to go down a potentially wrong path. In a 3 hour lab I would hope students would have the time to do that, learn from it, fix wrong assumptions, and still complete the lab.

    Here’s my question: I would be surprised if anyone would read the recommendations and disagree from the perspective of what experiences would make a good scientist. However, clearly things like “cookbook labs” have cropped up over the years. Why does that happen? I have my suspicions (logistics, ease of grading, easy time management, well tested equipment and procedures, etc) but I’m curious what the committee would say.

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