Introductory lab courses have been a staple of the physics curriculum for over 100 years. Yet these courses are now poised for change as recent research shows that they do not meet a frequent goal of enhancing student understanding of lecture content. In thinking about how to move forward, a look back at experiment courses in history seems wise. Here, I take a quick look at our historical record and describe three interesting experiment courses from different time periods: Adolphe Ganot’s demonstration-style experiment course of the mid-1800s, Fredrich Kohlrausch’s research-grade experiment course in the late 1800s, and Newton Henry Black’s concept-exercise experiment course of the early 1900s. In looking back at these three courses, I find that instructors throughout history have had to face the same questions we do today. Specifically, what is the role of the introductory lab course in teaching experimental or theoretical concepts, and how much preparation, instruction, authenticity, and complexity are required? It seems that even if the introductory lab course is poised for change, that change may not be meaningful unless we answer these questions.
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PAPERS| February 01 2021
One Hundred Years Later, Introductory Labs Are Poised for Change
Phys. Teach. 59, 97–99 (2021)
Ashley R. Carter; One Hundred Years Later, Introductory Labs Are Poised for Change. Phys. Teach. 1 February 2021; 59 (2): 97–99. https://doi.org/10.1119/10.0003460
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