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Abstract Title: Modifying the curriculum of introductory physics to improve student learning locally and downstream.
Abstract: We wanted to explore how modifying the curriculum of an introductory calculus-based mechanics course would impact student learning.  With the idea of teaching scalars before vectors, we are using an "Energy-First" approach that motivates the development of classical mechanics from the concepts of energy and energy conservation rather than force. This "Energy-First" curriculum also seeks to better prepare students for a variety of upper-level courses by emphasizing calculus more than traditional "Force-First" approaches do.  Results from the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) assessment indicate that students taught using the "Energy-First" approach had normalized gains in the six topic areas (Newton's First Law, Newton's Second Law, Newton's Third Law, Kinds of Forces, Kinematics, and Superposition Principle) that were equal to or higher than those of students taught using the traditional approach.  Furthermore, students taught using the "Energy-First" approach achieved higher grades in downstream engineering courses in dynamics, statics, and thermodynamics.  Thus, this curriculum modification positively affected student learning both locally within the course and longitudinally across their majors.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation
Session Time: Poster Session I
Poster Number: A29

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Christopher Fischer
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas
1082 Malott Hall
1251 Wescoe Hall Drive
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 7859796834
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Sarah LeGresley Rush, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas

Christopher Bruner, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas

Michael Murray, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas