Exit Questionnaire: Useful?

24Aug11

Last year, as part of the Action Research in Physics Project run through the Science Learning Centres, I collected data in my school about those who didn’t do Physics at AS. If this seems odd, think for a moment. If we ask those who did choose our subject, we’re only getting the success stories. Surely what we want to know is what put off everyone else. I was particularly interested in the high number who had achieved well at GCSE (getting A* in the separate Physics course) but had not chosen it as part of their AS timetable.

At my workplace, students are selected for triple science GCSE rather than choosing it themselves, which might account for some of them – they were bright students who achieved well in all or many of their subjects. And we have a lot of students doing Physics at AS, it’s not as if we’re in danger of losing classes. However, we do lag behind Biology and Chemistry. Boo. Hiss. I’m obviously not the first person to consider this, and I noticed some of the issues raised in, for example, the IOP Girls in Physics report. Numbers seem to be rising (32860 finished A2 last year, according to this Telegraph story which credits Brian Cox, or see this IOP press release for more detailed numbers.)

Scientists always like more data, and one school is hardly respresentative. So, I thought, why not collect more? If only there was some way to make this kind of quick survey available to colleagues in other schools, so that we could get a bigger sample. If only there was some way to automate and easily share the results, so that we could all learn from it…

At the risk of sounding like a Year 8 stuck on their homework, the answer is Google. A Google form, to be precise.

Obviously the results will be skewed, as I expect only students who have continued to their school 6th form will be pointed towards this, but the more data we can collect the better. Obviously the results will be open to all participants and I will also be blogging about them – it’s also possible that they will inform an article somewhere, perhaps SSR.

What I need to know is whether this is worth taking forward. I’ve put a draft Google form together, based on the paper version I used at my school last year. I have some questions to use, although obviously I’d be interested in any extra suggestions. I want to make this a fast questionnaire, not something students or teachers have to spend a lot of time on. My plan is to finalize the form in a week’s time, so the more feedback and suggestions I get in that time the better. I plan to post and tweet the link to the improved version on September 1st, and hope that as many colleagues as possible will get kids to fill it in. I’d also appreciate suggestions about how to get the word out to as many teachers as practical in a short space of time.

Anyone interested?

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4 Responses to “Exit Questionnaire: Useful?”

  1. 1 Daniel Sandford Smith

    I think this is a really good idea. You might want to look at some other research that people have done in terms of attitudes towards physics. I think there was quite a big survey done as part of the Stimulating Physics pilot, I can’t see the evaluation report on the site but I am sure if you contacted the Institute of Physics they would provide it. You could also promote the form through TalkPhysics http://www.talkphysics.org/

    It would also be worth having a look at the IoE UPMAP project http://www.ioe.ac.uk/study/departments/cpat/4814.html as they look to have some of the questionnaires they used available on the website.

    In some of the recent work I have commissioned on attitudes I think allowing some element on free response that can be analysed by a Word Cloud can be quite revealing, so might be worth considering adding something about what words they associate with physics?

    Only wish I was still teaching so I could offer to help.

  2. 2 Rachel Eppy

    I think its a great idea to find out what put students off.

    Comments on the questionaire:
    * Does it matter what year they finished GCSE?
    * Seen a fair few students do bio/chem and Geog. Maybe have the option Geology/Geography on the what did you choose option
    * Would a ‘none’ option be appropriate for those doing no A-Levels but are doing Employment/Apprenticeship/vocational courses be appropraite if you do get the work out to students who aren’t at college
    * Do students still choose options based on what peers are choosing?

    Ideas for getting the word out to teachers in a short space of time:
    #asechat
    Talk Physics Forum
    Through your local Stimulating Physics Coordinators

    Good luck-will be interested in seeing the results!

  3. I know you said you were planning to post the updated version about now, but it occurred to me as I was looking at the form. If you’ve got a student who did GCSE Physics, how are you going to separate their results from GCSE Science/Additional Science?

    Think it’s worth putting in those three drop-down menus a “N/A” option, so Physics students can put N/A for Science/Additional Science, and double-award students can put N/A for Physics. Does that make sense? Otherwise the default for each is A*.

    Now, do you just want students going into Year 12, or can Year 13 students not doing Physics answer? I have a few A2s who dropped Physics after AS, or who dropped it within the first six weeks last September. And while I have access to ~40 AS Biology students who may or may not have chosen Physics, are you interested in non-scientists as well? I may be able to persuade the tutors to give the survey to the Humanities Pathway lot.

  4. Thanks for comments – currently (a little later than planned, bad Ian) playing with the form to include some of the suggestions. This could be a huge project, but I’m really aiming it at those students who got the GCSE grades to do A levels, chose to follow that route, but specifically didn’t choose Physics. In particular, it’s those students who did *well* at GCSE I’m curious about – these are the very kids who we want doing AS/A2, but we’re losing a lot of them. Updated version hopefully out later today. Thanks for ideas!


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