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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

A pilot study of optics laboratory activities impact on students connections between theory and experiment
Author(s): Christopher M. Nakamura; Marie T. Cassar; Brittany A. Brady

Paper Abstract

Research in Physics Education suggests students have difficulties in learning physics content through experimental lab work1. In applied areas, such as optics, the formation of a strong understanding that spans both theory and application is often necessary. In this pilot study, the progression of six optics students was tracked over a 15-week semester. We integrated short laboratory activities into a traditional upper-division theoretical optics course with the aim of helping students to make connections between concepts in theoretical optics and their implementation/applications in the laboratory. Three interviews were conducted at the beginning, the middle and the end of the semester to monitor the development of students’ skills and knowledge in the relevant optics areas. The interview protocols asked students to make conceptual explanations, perform theoretical calculations and perform experimental tasks to demonstrate their understanding. Initial analysis of the interview responses reveals the gaps in the students’ knowledge and skills. We performed a qualitative thematic analysis of the interview data to examine student success in making connections between theory and application. Our results consist of a revised interview protocol for assessing learning in this integrated optics context, revised laboratory activities, and insights for experimental designs that could better assess student learning gains.

Paper Details

Date Published: 2 July 2019
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 11143, Fifteenth Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2019, 1114339 (2 July 2019); doi: 10.1117/12.2523598
Show Author Affiliations
Christopher M. Nakamura, Saginaw Valley State Univ. (United States)
Marie T. Cassar, Saginaw Valley State Univ. (United States)
Brittany A. Brady, Saginaw Valley State Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 11143:
Fifteenth Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2019
Anne-Sophie Poulin-Girard; Joseph A. Shaw, Editor(s)

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