Effective practices: the Physics Teaching Laboratory at Imperial College London

Dr Michael F.J. Fox, Imperial College London

10 Aprile, ore 14.30 – Aula P2B, Complesso Paolotti

In this talk I will give an overview of the experimental physics programme for undergraduate physics students at Imperial College London before explaining how a handful of simple changes we have made in the last year have made a dramatic improvement to the student and staff experience of the second-year lab course. These changes include updating how reports are graded to align with what we want students to learn; how we assess student lab notebooks and professional skills in the lab; and how the staff and graduate teaching assistants in the lab are trained. What I will present is a case study rather than a research report, as we cannot separate the effect of individual changes on overall outcomes or student sentiment. Nevertheless, I hope to provide the audience with some examples that may be of practical use when considering how to design or alter their own courses.

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Michael F. J. Fox has worked on a wide range of projects in physics education research, from workforce development for the quantum industry through to analysis of the process of curriculum and culture change in a physics department. His core interest is in what and how students learn in physics teaching laboratories. This has been informed by his own experience as a student in undergraduate teaching labs through to his PhD research on analysing data on plasma turbulence in nuclear fusion reactors. How to teach experimental physics effectively came to the forefront when he was teaching high-school physics, leading to post-doctoral work on assessing student learning in teaching labs using the E-CLASS and MAPLE surveys during his time in the Lewandowski group in Boulder, Colorado. He has recently taken over as the head of the second-year teaching laboratory in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, where he has started to implement evidence-based practices.