Physics is a subject area that, like many others, requires a specific and rather well-defined skillset. This skillset includes the ability to solve problems which involve, at minimum, an understanding of basic algebra. The level of mathematics required often depends upon the population of students a particular physics class is geared for. Our non-majors studying physics typically need to have a working knowledge of basic algebra, while our physics and STEM majors need to have some basic calculus under their belts. To promote deeper learning in physics, educators and researchers have developed a multitude of active-learning strategies that have one primary goal; namely, to enhance student learning. Many research studies in physics education have looked at factors that affect learning in physics. Oftentimes these studies have focused on specific subsets of populations of students in classes such as introductory courses for non-majors or for specific non-STEM populations such as music or elementary education majors. Additional studies have focused on student learning in courses designed for physics and other STEM-related disciplines. Several studies, for example, have focused on the conceptual and reasoning difficulties novice students often encounter in an introductory physics course. Physics educators know that students don’t enter the classroom with a tabula rasa – rather they bring with them a minimum of about 18 years of life experiences that directly and indirectly impede or enhance their ability to learn physics. Within the introductory physics course, one might argue that there are more similarities than differences in terms of factors that impede or enhance student learning across various subsets of student populations. For example, studies have shown that an alarmingly large number of students across the entire introductory spectrum of courses have similar difficulties in terms of the preconceptions and misconceptions they bring with them into the classroom. In the roughly 50 years that formal research in physics education has been conducted, we have uncovered, time and time again, that our students come into our classes with issues that have a direct or indirect bearing on their ability to learn physics. One question this paper aims to address is: Are the factors that impede or enhance student learning in physics any different in the millennial age? The millennial (or Generation Y) is often considered to be an individual born sometime between the early 1980s and 2000s. During this same time period and beyond we have seen an explosion in the availability of internet- and technology-based learning tools. Are these types of tools impeding or enhancing student learning … or perhaps both? To address the question posed, a synthesis of a survey given to introductory students in two different university-level physics classes in the fall 2016 semester will be presented. One aim of the survey will be to attempt to tease out factors that are affecting learning in physics of our millennial-age students. An additional aim will be to look at the general perceptions millennials have towards learning in general; and, more specifically towards learning physics.
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