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Physics Colloquium: ‘Qualitative Investigation of Project Ownership in Laboratory Courses: Implications for Instruction’

November 10, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Dimitri Dounas-Frazer and Ira Ché Lassen

Western Washington University

Abstract: Many lab courses include a final project that spans multiple weeks. Such projects serve several purposes, including nurturing students’ sense of project ownership. Project ownership refers in part to students’ control over and responsibility for an experiment. Research in science education suggests that ownership, motivation, and persistence are interrelated, and that feelings of ownership can fluctuate in time. Building on prior work at a single institution, we have conducted a multi-site study of students’ sense of ownership of multi-week final projects in upper-level physics lab courses. Using survey and interview data, we propose a model that describes ownership as a relationship between student and project characterized by particular student-project and interpersonal interactions during three temporal phases: choice of topic, execution of methods, and creation of deliverables. In our presentation, we will describe implications for the design and implementation of final projects whose goals include fostering a sense of project ownership among students.

All lectures are via Zoom.
If you would like to be invited to attend the colloquium via Zoom, please contact Dan Adams ( or Serena Eley ( for the link.


Dr. Dimitri Dounas-Frazer is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education at Western Washington University. He has interdisciplinary expertise in experimental atomic physics and education research. He primarily studies three aspects of physics laboratory coursework: students’ use of model-based reasoning in experimental physics contexts, instructors’ beliefs and practices regarding teaching and learning laboratory skills, and classroom factors that cultivate student ownership of research projects. Additionally, Dr. Dounas-Frazer is an active member of local and national physics diversity initiatives. He is a Mines alum (classes of ’06 and ’07). He completed his Ph.D. in 2012 at the University of California Berkeley, where he performed high-precision measurements of weak nuclear effects in atomic systems. His postdoctoral experience includes teacher preparation at the California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and education research at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Ira Ché Lassen is an undergraduate student at Western Washington University (WWU) and Fairhaven College. He expects to complete a BS in Physics and a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies by June 2022. Lassen’s interests include acoustics, rhetoric, and physics education research (PER), and he has professional experience with 3D sign manufacturing, CNC laser operation, and IT support. In his roles as a Teaching Assistant in the WWU Physics & Astronomy Department and Research Assistant in the WWU PER Group, Lassen is building expertise in both teaching and studying physics laboratory courses.


November 10, 2020
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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