Physics: E-CLASS


What is E-CLASS?
Report to Instructors

The research team
Comments? Questions?

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 assess 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. The E-CLASS has been validated and administered in all levels of undergraduate physics classes. To aid in its use as a formative assessment tool, E-CLASS provides all participating instructors with a detailed feedback report.

sample report

Survey Statements:

1. When doing an experiment, I try to understand how the experimental setup works.
2. I don't need to understand how the measurement tools and sensors work in order to carry out an experiment.
3. When doing a physics experiment, I don't think much about sources of systematic error.
4. It is helpful to understand the assumptions that go into making predictions.
5. Whenever I use a new measurement tool, I try to understand its performance limitations.
6. Calculating uncertainties usually helps me understand my results better.
7. If I don't have clear directions for analyzing data, I am not sure how to choose an appropriate analysis method.
9. I am usually able to complete an experiment without understanding the equations and physics ideas that describe the system I am investigating.
10. When doing an experiment, I try to understand the relevant equations.
11. Computers are helpful for plotting and analyzing data.
12. When I am doing an experiment, I try to make predictions to see if my results are reasonable.
13. When doing an experiment I usually think up my own questions to investigate.
14. When doing an experiment, I just follow the instructions without thinking about their purpose.
15. Designing and building things is an important part of doing physics experiments.
16. When I encounter difficulties in the lab, my first step is to ask an expert, like the instructor.
17. A common approach for fixing a problem with an experiment is to randomly change things until the problem goes away.
18. Communicating scientific results to peers is a valuable part of doing physics experiments.
19. Scientific journal articles are helpful for answering my own questions and designing experiments
20. Working in a group is an important part of doing physics experiments.
21. If I am communicating results from an experiment, my main goal is to make conclusions based on my data using scientific reasoning.
22. If I am communicating results from an experiment, my main goal is to have the correct sections and formatting.
23. I enjoy building things and working with my hands.
24. I don't enjoy doing physics experiments.
25. Nearly all students are capable of doing a physics experiment if they work at it.
26. If I try hard enough I can succeed at doing physics experiments.
27. If I wanted to, I think I could be good at doing research.
28. When I approach a new piece of lab equipment, I feel confident I can learn how to use it well enough for my purposes.
29. I do not expect doing an experiment to help my understanding of physics.
30. The primary purpose of doing a physics experiment is to confirm previously known results.
31. Physics experiments contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge.


How to use E-CLASS in your own courses

If you are interested in administering the E-CLASS in your course, please fill out this survey BEFORE the school term starts. Once you have finished the survey, you will receive an email a couple days before your class starts with the pre survey link. It is important that your students complete the pre-survey within a week of the first day. Responses received after the first week of class will be discarded.

Please consider giving your students an incentive, such giving it as an assignment or offering extra credit, to fill out the survey. Response rates are much higher, which will allow the survey results to provide a more accurate picture of your course.

A week before your class ends, you will receive a link to the post survey. Please ask your students complete this survey as close to the final day of class as possible. You will receive a report when the post survey has closed.

Report to Instructors

After the post survey has been closed, you will receive a report based on student responses in your class. A sample report can be found here. As we are still refining instructor reports, any feedback is greatly appreciated.



“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, (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, 1413, p 442-445 (2013)

The research team

Heather Lewandowski
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).

Ben Zwickl
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.

Dimitri Dounas-Frazer
Dr. Dounas-Frazer is a Research Associate in the Physics Education Research group at University of Colorado Boulder. He completed his PhD at the University of California Berkeley in 2012, where he performed high-precision measurements of atomic parity violation in ytterbium while also playing a leadership role in the diversity-oriented Berkeley Compass Project. His research focuses on studying and improving upper-division physics lab courses and increasing diversity in the sciences by supporting the persistence of students from underrepresented groups.

Doyle "Skip" Woody
Skip graduated from CU-Boulder with a degree in Physics in 2014. As an undergraduate, Skip studied student ontologies in introductory quantum mechanics under the supervision of Noah Finkelstein and in collaboration with researchers at the University of Maryland. Presently, he is continuing his research in quantum mechanics courses while also serving as the administrator and primary point of contact for E-CLASS.

Comments? Questions?

Any feedback from instructors regarding the survey, its administration, or reports is welcome. Please feel free to contact us.


NSF TUES DUE-1043028
JILA PFC PHY-0551010
CU Science Education Initiative
Integrating STEM Education at Colorado NSF DRL-0833364


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Supported by the University of Colorado and NSF-TUES Grant #1043028

Instructors and education researchers are free to use and adapt these materials for non-commercial purposes, according to the Creative Commons license below. We ask for your cooperation in not making any solutions you may create for the homework (and exam problems, clicker questions, etc…) available on the open web, out of respect for instructors and students at other institutions, and for maintaining the integrity of our research.

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).