Skip to content Skip to navigation

Transforming undergraduate physics labs at Cornell

With support from the Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences Active Learning Initiative, we are undertaking an initiative to revise the lab courses associated with two introductory physics sequences at Cornell University (6 courses over three years). The transformation of these labs is following the transformation model inspired by the Science Education Initiatives (see: and establish learning objectives, evaluate what students are learning, identify instructional strategies that improve student learning.

Establishing learning objectives: 

The learning objectives for this course were established through interviews and focus groups with faculty and instructors in the physics department at Cornell and consultation with literature and other institutions. Versions of the learning objectives were iteratively revised with additional consultation with the faculty and instructors. 

The learning objectives fall under five main goals:

By the end of the three-course intro lab sequence, students should be able to:

  1. Collect data and revise an experimental procedure iteratively and reflectively,
  2. Evaluate the process and outcomes of an experiment quantitatively and qualitatively,
  3. Extend the scope of an investigation whether or not results come out as expected,
  4. Communicate the process and outcomes of an experiment, and
  5. Conduct an experiment collaboratively and ethically.

The specific learning objectives that fall under these five upper-level goals can be accessed through this link

Evaluating student learning:

We are actively conducting research in this area. One means of evaluation will be to use the Physics Lab Inventory of Critical thinking (PLIC).

Designing instructional strategies to improve student learning:

Details coming soon...