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Abstract Title: Learning: Two steps forward, one step back
Abstract: Previous work on how students change conceptions in introductory physics courses has focused on conceptual gains without taking losses into account. We analyze Force Concept Inventory data collected before and after an introductory course for 13,422 students learning physics in high schools, two-year colleges, public universities and elite universities. When looking at individual answers, we argue that current gain metrics are only valid under the assumption that there are no losses. Across all students, we find mean losses of 30%, with little fluctuation from this value in all institutions except in elite universities (15%). This suggests that conceptual losses are important and that conceptual trajectories may be described as two-steps forward, one-step-backward. The instability of initially correct responses also provide more support for the resources model (positing conceptions as flexible and context-dependent) than for the misconception model (positing conceptions as deeply rooted and resistant to change). For conceptual assessments, we propose replacing current one-dimensional gain measures - that average over gains and losses- by a three-dimensional metric that reports students initial knowledge state and accounts both for gains and losses.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Nathaniel Lasry
John Abbott College
and Co-Presenter(s)
Jonathan Guillemette
Eric Mazur