2012 Issues

March 2012 ISSUE: 1

Using Clickers in Physics Lectures with Predominant Minority Students
Pengfei Li, Jonathan Lambright, Pages 1-5

At Savannah State University (SSU), a Historical Black College and University (HBCU), an in-class response system (clicker) was used in an algebra-based physics introductory course to answer multiple-choice questions during lectures. Two types of clicker questions sequences were used to improve students’ interaction in class and help students understand physics concepts: “rapid fire” sequences and “easy-hard-hard”. Attitude survey showed students liked using clickers and felt more engaged in lectures after using them. Voting results showed two different patterns for “rapid fire” series and “easy-hard-hard” series. These results were also compared with voting results by students from the Ohio State University (OSU).

Project-Based Learning: Theory, Impact, and Effective Implementation
Aaron Adair, Lei Bao, Pages 6-21

This paper reviews the literature on the teaching methodology of project-based learning (PBL), covering its characteristics, inception, and the results from implementation. From the existing research, PBL is found to be an effective instructional paradigm compared to traditional teaching methods. A collection of issues for effective implementation of PBL is constructed bearing in mind both what is best for creating educated and formal reasoning citizens and what should be done to avoid PBL from degenerating into less effective paradigms. Several tests are suggested for investigating the qualities of a given implementation of PBL, notably in the context of physics.

Examining the Geometry Items of State Standardized Exams Using the van Hiele Model: Test Content and Student Achievement
Yating Liu, Pingping Zhang, Patti Brosnan, Diana Erchick, Pages 22-28

In this work we catalogued the content of multiple-choice geometry items on the Ohio Achievement Tests for Grades 3, 5 and 8 according to the van Hiele model of development of geometric thought. Using state-wide data from 1,418 students, responses on each question were analyzed to trace students’ performance at different grade levels. Statistical results indicated that the majority of the items at each grade level focused on Levels 1 and 2, and student performance declined as the question level increased. A closer examination of the participants’ responses in each item suggested that visual evidence and linguistic clues significantly impacted students’ judgment.


December 2012 ISSUE: 2

Alignment Between Physics Curriculum Standard and High School Physics Exit Examination in China
Yuying Guo, Tao Xing, Guiqing Xu, and Chaoyang Zheng, Pages 29-40

In order to find out if the physics achievement qualifying examination reflect the main contents of physics curriculum standards and the direction of the curriculum reform, this study compares the alignment be-tween the physics curriculum standard of senior high school in China and physics achievement qualifying examination in Guangdong, Ningxia, Shandong and Hainan provinces. The results based on the Porter alignment method indicate that all the alignment between curriculum standard and test papers in the four provinces are very low, with the Porter alignment index range from 0.25 to 0.38, due to a shift toward high-er cognitive level from curriculum standard to exams and the focus of the exam contents in mechanics. Although the experimental inquiry and physics history are paid attention to in all these test papers, no PTS (physics-technology-society) and physics ideas and methods are reflected in these papers at all. How to test these aspects, which are important contents in the new physics curriculum, remains to further research.

Parent Characteristics, Teacher Qualification, Peer Effect, and Student Achievement in Third Grade: A Multiple-Group Mixture Structural Equation Model
Hui Jiang and Sui Huang, Pages 41-49

This paper uses the multiple-group mixture SEM model to examine the effects of parent characteristics, teacher qualification, and peer effect on students’ academic performance. The potential differential effects for higher-achieving and lower-achieving groups are also examined. Using a national sample of 7022 third-grade students in the ECLS-K study, the project finds that parent characteristics and peer effect contribute positively to academic achievement, while teacher qualification has little effects. However, higher-achieving groups appear to be more sensitive to teacher effects than lower-achieving group. Moreover, parent characteristics remain the strongest predictor of children’s academic success across samples.

Physics Learning Identity: Toward Development of A Model
Sissi Li and Dedra Demaree, Pages 50-56

Lecture classes enrolling hundreds of students are becoming the norm in college introductory science courses. Studies indicate that learning in large population enrollment traditional lecture courses correlates with lower course performance, reduced retention in the course (Gardiner, 1994; Borden and Burton, 1999) and as science majors (Kopeika, 1992; Hewitt & Seymour, 1999), reduced interest and motivation (Lord, 1999), and weaker grasp of meta learning goals such as critical thinking skills (Kennedy and Siegfried, 1997). However, the negative effects of large enrollment courses appear to be reduced by implementing some form of active engagement curriculum in place of the passive traditional lecture (Hake, 1998; Powell, 2003). Further examination of learning in active engagement classrooms suggests that the learning environment mediates the quality of knowledge built because the learning environment facilitates students in developing identities in relation to the discipline (Boaler, 2002). Therefore we must study student learning as identity development in addition to conceptual knowledge building. The purpose of this chapter is to build a model of social learning to frame the construct of physics learning identity. This will enable further development of analytical tools to measure and examine students’ learning identity as they engage with the classroom community of practice.

The Impact of Assessment Format on Student and Evaluator Response in Physics Assessment
James Brogerg and Lei Bao, Pages 57-68

The purpose of this paper will be to review the current literature studying the impact of assessment format in physics evaluation in order to arrive at a comprehensive picture of the results and effects of different assessment formats on academic performance. This picture shall be obtained by asking two separate questions of each assessment format, and will conclude with a bulleted list of the failures and successes of each assessment format in corresponding to the desired outcome for each question posed. This list shall be used as a guideline for future development of evaluation techniques, as the list of “pros” provide a description of the outcomes desired and the list of “cons” provide a description of the outcomes to be minimized. The two questions that shall organize the discussion and the model that it results in are the following: (a) What is the impact of the assessment format on a student’s response?, and (b) what is the impact of the assessment format on the evaluator’s response? This paper shall consider the two most prevalent assessment formats, “multiple choice” and “free construction”, and subsequent papers will discuss the innovations and alternatives proposed to undercut the dichotomy between multiple choice and free construction while using this paper’s model as a guideline for directing progress.