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Abstract Title: Learning about Student Learning in Intermediate Mechanics: Using Research to Improve Instruction
Abstract: Ongoing research in physics education has demonstrated that physics majors often do not develop a working knowledge of basic concepts in mechanics, even after standard instruction in upper-level mechanics courses.[1]  A central goal of this work has been to explore the ways in which students make--or do not make--appropriate connections between physics concepts and the more sophisticated mathematics (e.g., differential equations, vector calculus) that they are expected to use.  Many of the difficulties that students typically encounter suggest deeply-seated alternate conceptions, while others suggest the presence of loosely or spontaneously connected intuitions.  Analysis of results from pretests (ungraded quizzes), written exams, and informal classroom observations will be presented to illustrate specific examples of these difficulties.  Also to be presented are examples of particular instructional strategies (implemented in Intermediate Mechanics Tutorials2) that appear to be effective in addressing these difficulties.

1. B.S. Ambrose, "Investigating student understanding in intermediate mechanics:  Identifying the need for a tutorial approach to instruction,"
Am. J. Phys. 72, 453 – 459 (2004).
2. Supported by NSF grants DUE-0441426 and DUE-0442388.
Abstract Type: Targeted Poster
Targeted Session: Cognitive Issues in Developing Curriculum for Upper-Level Physics Courses

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Bradley Ambrose
Grand Valley State University