Duda Garrett - arxiv.org 2007/8

Blogging in the physics classroom: A research-based approach to shaping students' attitudes towards physics

Gintaras Duda, Katherine Garrett

Even though there has been a tremendous amount of research done in how to help students learn physics, students are still coming away missing a crucial piece of the puzzle: why bother with physics? Students learn fundamental laws and how to calculate, but come out of a general physics course without a deep understanding of how physics has transformed the world around them. In other words, they get the "how" but not the "why". Studies have shown that students leave introductory physics courses almost universally with decreased expectations and with a more negative attitude. This paper will detail an experiment to address this problem: a course weblog or "blog" which discusses real-world applications of physics and engages students in discussion and thinking outside of class. Specifically, students' attitudes towards the value of physics and its applicability to the real-world were probed using a 26-question Likert scale survey over the course of four semesters in an introductory physics course at a comprehensive Jesuit university. We found that students who did not participate in the blog study generally exhibited a deterioration in attitude towards physics as seen previously. However, students who read, commented, and were involved with the blog maintained their initially positive attitudes towards physics. Student response to the blog was overwhelmingly positive, with students claiming that the blog made the things we studied in the classroom come alive for them and seem much more relevant.