Do students’ experiences of a service subject correspond to their expectations?


  • Les Kirkup
  • Alberto Mendez
  • Dale Scott
  • Manjula Sharma
  • John O’Byrne
  • Jamie Quinton
  • Judith Pollard
  • Svetlana Petelina
  • Chris Creagh
  • Patrick Keleher
  • Ragbir Bhathal


What impact does a single semester of physics have on students destined to major in disciplines other than physics? As part of a national study, supported by funding from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC), we have trialled an instrument designed to uncover expectations and experiences of non-physics majors enrolled in a first year physics subject. The trial surveyed bio/medical science majors at a large metropolitan university. We were particularly interested in student views of the value of physics to their major area of study and whether those views were transformed over the course of the semester. Analysis of data obtained indicates that student perceptions of the value of physics are positive and change little over the semester in which they do the subject. However some experiences, such as the laboratory work they undertake, elicited some robust responses from students. The paper discusses the findings of the trial survey, which are related to a broader study on indicators of good practice on the teaching of physics to non-physics majors. The broadening of this study to include physics subjects in which non-physics majors are enrolled at 22 Australian universities is briefly described.