Comparing large lecture mechanics curricula using the Force Concept Inventory: A five thousand student study
Average pre- and post-instruction FCI scores at Georgia Tech. The average FCI pre- and post-test scores are shown for students who took a one-semester mechanics course with either the traditional (TRAD) or Matter & Interactions (M&I) curriculum. The number of students (N) tested for each curriculum is indicated in the figure. The error bounds represent the 95% confidence intervals (estimated from the t-statistic) on the estimate of the average score.
Gain in understanding of mechanics as measured by the FCI. The increase in student understanding resulting from a one-semester traditional (TRAD) or Matter & Interactions (M&I) course is measured using (a) the average raw gain G and (b) the average normalized gain g. Only students with matched scores were used for this figure (see Table I). The error bounds represent the 95% confidence intervals (estimated from the t-statistic) on the estimate of (a) the raw gain and (b) the normalized gain.
FCI score distributions by curriculum. The distributions of FCI test scores for students before (a) and after (b) completing a mechanics course with either a traditional (dashed line) or M&I curriculum (solid line) are shown. The total number of students tested in each curriculum is the same as in Fig. 1. The plots are constructed from binned data with bin widths equal to approximately 6.7% of the maximum possible FCI score (100%).
Difference in performance for individual FCI items and mechanics concepts. The difference in performance between traditional and M&I students is shown for each question on the FCI. Positive (negative) indicates superior performance by traditional (M&I) students on individual questions. The numerical labels indicate the corresponding question number in order of appearance on the FCI. The items are grouped together into one of five concepts: Kinematics, Newton’s first law, Newton’s second law, Newton’s third law, and Force Identification. The horizontal line (dash) illustrates the value of , the mean difference in the item gains between curricula.
Georgia Tech FCI test results are shown for 22 traditional sections (T1–T22) and 6 Matter & Interactions sections (M1–M6). Different lecturers are distinguished by a unique letter in column L. The average incoming FCI score I for students entering the course is shown for sections in which the FCI was given prior to instruction. In those sections where data are available, the average outgoing FCI score O for students completing this course are indicated. is the number of students in a given section who took the FCI both at the beginning and at the end (i.e., matched data) of their mechanics course.
The average differences in item gains between curricula are computed for the items in each FCI force and motion concept, . Each is positive, indicating better average item gains for traditional students across all FCI force and motion concepts. Concepts with higher are those for which traditional students achieve higher normalized gains than M&I students. Traditional students achieve the highest values of on the Kinematics and Force Identification concepts and lowest on Newton’s first law concept. The measures are presented along with their variance.
An estimate of the fraction of homework questions covering a particular FCI concept in the two mechanics curricula is compared. Subtopics for these homework questions were not mutually exclusive. The relative fraction of homework questions covering FCI force and motion concepts and some individual FCI concepts (i.e., Kinematics, Newton’s second law, Newton’s third law, and Force Identification) is greater in the traditional curriculum.
Comparison of the estimated fractions of lecture/reading topics in the two mechanics curricula. Subtopics for these lectures/readings were not mutually exclusive. The relative fraction of lectures/readings in the traditional course is greater for the Kinematics, Newton’s third law, and Force Identification topics, which is consistent with their superior performance in those concepts on the FCI. However, on Newton’s first and second laws, the relative fractions of lectures/readings are roughly similar.
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