Investigating undergraduate students’ views about the process of experimental physics Public Deposited
  • Students sometimes learn about a model of the “scientific method” that is linear and clear cut. While this approach may have pedagogical advantages, it does not reflect how science is often done in practice. The Experimental Modeling Framework (EMF) describes the complex and iterative process of experimentation in the domain of physics, including comparing predictions with experimental data and enacting revisions to models and apparatus. We conducted interviews with 10 undergraduate students who had just completed an advanced physics lab course in order to investigate their views about the EMF as a depiction of the process experimental physics. We report the results of a thematic analysis that investigates students’ views about the EMF and explores the extent to which students identified iteration as an important aspect of experimental physics. Generally, the students in this study found the EMF to be reflective of the process of experimental physics. They identified several distinct differences between the EMF and a traditional depiction of a linear scientific method (SM), including the lack of iteration in the SM, as well as the importance of asking questions and reporting results, which is absent from the EMF. Additionally, student discussions of the fundamentally iterative nature of science were most likely to occur during direct comparisons of the EMF and SM. We discuss implications of this study for both research and instruction. We suggest that, in a lab course where iteration is a goal, explicit in-class discussions and comparisons of models of the process of experimentation could be beneficial for students’ epistemological development.


Date Issued
  • 2022
Additional Information
  • Publication of this article was funded by the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries Open Access Fund.
Academic Affiliation
Journal Title
Journal Volume
  • 18
Last Modified
  • 2022-12-14
Resource Type
Rights Statement
  • 2469-9896


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