What is E-CLASS?
The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Experimental Physics (E-CLASS) was developed as a broadly applicable assessment tool for undergraduate physics lab courses. At the beginning and end of the semester, the E-CLASS assesses students views about their strategies, habits of mind, and attitudes when doing experiments in lab classes. Students also reflect on how those same strategies, habits of mind, and attitudes are practiced by professional researchers. Finally, at the end of the semester, students reflect on how their own course valued those practices in terms of earning a good grade. In response to frequent calls to transform laboratory curricula to more closely align it with the skills and abilities needed for professional research, the E-CLASS is a tool to assess students' perceptions of the gap between classroom laboratory instruction and professional research.
An example of the three-tiered question format used on the E-CLASS.
A full list of all question prompts can be accessed here.
Design and Validation of E-CLASS
While the overall validation of the E-CLASS is ongoing, the survey has been preliminarily validated and administered in all levels of undergraduate physics classes. Validation studies have included: iterative student interviews to ensure that students interpret and respond to the survey items as expected; faculty review to establish a baseline for expert-like responses and ensure that all items are meaningful and aligned with instructors' goals for laboratory physics courses; and correlations of students E-CLASS scores with their final grades in their lab courses.
Can the E-CLASS be customized for individual courses or other scientific disciplines? The short answer is no. The E-CLASS instrument has been validated in its current form, and the addition, removal, or manipulation of any items or formatting on the assessment could potentially invalidate the survey. Changes to the survey would require extensive re-testing to ensure that they did not meaningfully disrupt either students' or experts' responses to and/or interpretation of any items or the assessment as a whole.
Administering the E-CLASS
Any instructor interested in administering the E-CLASS in their physics laboratory course should complete the Course Information Survey prior to their course start date. After completing the Course Information Survey, the process will be as follows:
- - Shortly after completing the survey, instructors will receive an email containing a link to the pre-instruction E-CLASS survey that they can distribute to their students at the start of the course.
- - We strongly recommend that instructors give students an incentive for completing the survey, such giving it as an assignment or offering extra credit, to fill out the survey. Even a small incentive typically yields much higher response rates, which will allow the survey results to provide a more accurate picture of your course.
- - The survey will remain open for 7 days, at which point, instructors will receive a follow-up email containing the names and ID number for all students who completed the pre-survey. It is important that all students complete the pre-instruction survey within the first 7 days of the course or laboratory section; responses received after this cutoff will be discarded.
- - At least 7 days before the end of the course, instructors will receive an email containing a link to the post-instruction E-CLASS survey.
- - This survey will remain open for 7 days, at which point, instructors will again receive an email containing the names and ID numbers for all students who completed the post-survey.
- - After the post-survey has closed, instructors will receive a report with aggregate data on their students' responses and comparisons to similar-level courses. This report is designed to facilitate the use of the E-CLASS as a formative assessment tool. An example report can be seen here.
If you are an instructor who has previously administered the E-CLASS and would like to provide feedback on the E-CLASS Instructor Reports, please email us at email@example.com.
"Students’ views about the nature of experimental physics"
Bethany Wilcox and Heather J. Lewandowski, under review Physical Review - X
"Developing skills vs. reinforcing concepts in physics labs: Insight from a survey of students' beliefs about experimental physics"
Bethany Wilcox and Heather J. Lewandowski, Physical Review - Physics Education Research 13 010108 (2017).
"Impact of instructional approach on students' epistemologies about experimental physics"
Bethany Wilcox and Heather J. Lewandowski, Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference, p 388 (2016).
"Open-ended versus guided laboratory activities: Impact on students' beliefs about experimental physics"
Bethany Wilcox and Heather J. Lewandowski, Physical Review - Physics Education Research, 12 020132 (2016).
“Research-based assessment of students' beliefs about experimental physics: When is gender a factor?”
Bethany Wilcox and Heather J. Lewandowski, Physical Review - Physics Education Research, 12 020130 (2016).
“Alternative model for administration and analysis of research-based assessments”
Bethany R. Wilcox, Benjamin M. Zwickl, Robert D. Hobbs, John M. Aiken, Nathan M. Welch, H. J. Lewandowski, Physical Review - Physics Education Research, 12 010139 (2016).
“Students’ epistemologies about experimental physics: Validating the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for experimental physics”
Bethany Wilcox and Heather J. Lewandowski, Editor's Suggestion in Physical Review - Physics Education Research, 12 010123 (2016).
“Correlating students' beliefs about experimental physics with laboratory course success”
Bethany Wilcox and Heather J. Lewandowski, Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference, p 367-370 (2015).
“Epistemology and expectations survey about experimental physics: Development and initial results”
Benjamin M. Zwickl, Takako Hirokawa, Noah Finkelstein, and Heather J. Lewandowski, Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, vol. 10, no. 1 (2014).
"Development and results from a survey on students views of experiments in lab classes and research." ”
Benjamin M. Zwickl, Takako Hirokawa, Noah Finkelstein, and H.J. Lewandowski, Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference, p 381-384 (2013)
"Development and Validation of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Experimental Physics"
Benjamin M. Zwickl, Noah Finkelstein, and H.J. Lewandowski, Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference, 1513, p 442-445 (2013)
Please direct your questions or thoughts directly to our research team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather is an associate professor of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics and PER in the department and a JILA Fellow. Her research interests include interactions of cold molecules and using a research-based approach to transforming physics lab courses particularly at the advanced undergraduate level (NSF TUES).
Prof. Zwickl joined the School of Physics & Astronomy in 2013. His research is in the field of Physics Education Research (PER), and he is a member of the Science and Mathematics Education Research Collaborative (SMERC) at RIT. Within the field of PER, Prof. Zwickl studies how students develop experimental and research skill sin the undergraduate curriculum and how those skills are applied after graduation, whether in PhD-level research, industrial careers, or other physics-related professions. During his postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado Boulder, he worked with Prof. Heather Lewandowski to implement a transformation process for laboratory courses that had broad support from faculty.
Bethany was a Research Associate in the Physics Education Research group at University of Colorado Boulder. She is now a faculty member in the Physics Department at the Colorado School of Mines. She completed her PhD at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2015, where she investigated students' use of mathematics in upper-division physics courses, and developed and validated a multiple-response assessment instrument targeting students' conceptual knowledge of upper-division electrostatics. Her current research focuses on the validation and analysis of data from the E-CLASS based on a growing national data set of student responses.