Professors' and students' conceptualizations of the learning task in introductory physics courses



What are students expected to learn in physics courses? Eight expert physics teachers and researchers, two from the University of Western Ontario in Canada, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, Stanford University in the United States of America, and Monash University in Australia, described their perceptions of learning in their courses. Students from the courses were then interviewed for their perceptions of learning in physics courses. In their courses, professors focused on the development of intellectual skills, assuming that students had a specific physics vocabulary. Students, however, were aware of their own limitations and suggested that professors should take nothing for granted. Students considered that to be a good teacher, a professor should know the perspective of the students and should start at the students' level. The results suggested that the intellectual challenge of learning physics merits early explanation.