"Do They Care, and Does It Matter? An Analysis of Learning Goals and Perceived Relevance of Introductory Physics to Life Science Majors"
Abstract: Physics departments frequently have a large enrollment of life science majors in introductory physics course sequences; a strong recent topic in physics education research regards course transformations for Introductory Physics for Life Science (IPLS) after considering life science majors’ interests and aims in the course. In a study at the University of Central Arkansas, biology majors and health science majors enrolled in introductory algebra-based physics demonstrated explicit achievement goals (mastery vs. performance) and briefly discussed perceived relevance of the course material to their majors, in a short-answer feedback survey regarding the utility of a metacognitive problem-solving pre-lab exercise, as confirmed by inter-rater reliability analysis of student responses. Students’ expressed learning goals and perceived relevance (thus far, separated between students who perceived no relevance and students who found some form of relevance) were then checked against background data and against other common pre-post quantitative measurements of students’ conceptual understanding and attitudes towards learning physics. Results indicate that both achievement goals and perceived relevance are factors with regard to attitudinal pre-post shifts towards learning physics. Discussion of the results include limitations of the feedback survey and ramifications upon future plans for IPLS course design.