University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics Education Seminar

Friday, February 9th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Kaylee Ganser
Subject: The Effect of Active Learning Classes on Introductory Physics Student Performance at UMN-Duluth

In order to determine the effect the new active learning classroom had on academic gains for introductory physics students at UMN-Duluth, we analyzed three data sets: the scores from a diagnostic test given at both the beginning and end of the semester (the Force Concept Inventory) and the scores from a common problem on the final exam (scored using a common checklist) for Spring 2016, and the FCI scores for Fall 2016. For the Spring 2016 semester, we
compared 3 Active Learning classes with a lecture group as a control, and for Fall 2016, all sections were Active Learning. For Spring 2016, we found that, for sufficiently ‘Active Learning’ style based teaching methods, the active learning classroom improved student scores compared to previous data, but the lecture section failed as a control due to various factors. For the Fall 2016 classes, the academic gains were less than both of Spring 2016’s data sets and past data, which indicates that additional criteria beyond simply moving into an Active Learning style classroom may be necessary to improve student scores or that students are learning skills not testable by the FCI. Academic gains made by women and racial minority students are suggestive of an improvement in active learning classes, but more data is needed to determine the true extent of this effect.

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