In recent decades, the literature paid attention to students’ conceptions of the nature of
disciplines. This study aimed to investigate how students’ cohesive and fragment
conceptions of physics changed with a major change in senior high school physics
syllabus. We obtained measures of conceptions of physics by utilizing a 20-item
questionnaire and triangulated by open-ended responses. The sample was 1979 first year
university students from three different years surveyed in their first laboratory session.
The first cohort of 780 first year university students had experienced the old syllabus in
high school and the next two cohorts of 511 and 688 first year university students had
experienced a rejuvenated high school syllabus. By establishing the reliability and validity we
found that there exists a substantial shift in student conceptions of the cohesiveness of
physics coinciding with the school syllabus change. This shift was mirrored in qualitative
data. Furthermore, students with more previous engagement in physics learning, on the
average, demonstrated less fragmented and more cohesive conceptions with the
rejuvenated syllabus than with the old syllabus.