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Abstract Title: Performance of graduate students at identifying introductory students’ difficulties related to kinematics graphs
Abstract: The Test of Understanding Graphs in Kinematics (TUG-K) is a multiple choice test developed by Beichner in 1994 to assess students' understanding of kinematics graphs. Many of the items on the TUG-K have strong distractor choices which correspond to students' common difficulties with kinematics graphs. Instruction is unlikely to be effective if instructors do not know the common difficulties of introductory physics students and explicitly take them into account in their instructional design. We evaluate the performance of first year physics graduate students in identifying common introductory student difficulties related to kinematics graphs. In particular, for each item on the TUG-K, the graduate students were asked to identify which incorrect answer choice they thought would be most commonly selected by introductory physics students if they did not know the correct answer after instruction in relevant concepts. We used our graduate student data and the data from Beichner's original paper for introductory physics students (which was collected from over 500 college and high-school students) to assess graduate student knowledge of introductory student difficulties. We find that, although the graduate students, on average, performed better than random guessing at identifying introductory student difficulties on the TUG-K, they did not identify many common difficulties that introductory students have with graphs in kinematics. In addition, we find that the ability of graduate students to identify the difficulties of introductory students is context dependent and that discussions among the graduate students improved their understanding of student difficulties related to kinematics graphs. Moreover, we find that the ability of American graduate students in identifying common student difficulties is comparable with that of foreign graduate students.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Alexandru Maries
University of Pittsburgh
and Co-Presenter(s)
Chandralekha Singh

Contributed Paper

Contributed Paper: Download the Contributed Paper