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Helping Under-prepared Students Learn Calculus-Based University Physics (Mats Selen, UIUC Department of Physics, July 25 PowerPoint Presentation
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Helping Under-prepared Students Learn Calculus-Based University Physics (Mats Selen, UIUC Department of Physics, July 25, AAPT-2001). Building a foundation: Physics 100 What motivates us: Brief overview of our intro physics sequence. Why we need a preparatory course like Physics 100.

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slide1
Helping Under-prepared Students Learn Calculus-Based University Physics(Mats Selen, UIUC Department of Physics, July 25, AAPT-2001)
  • Building a foundation: Physics 100
    • What motivates us:
      • Brief overview of our intro physics sequence.
      • Why we need a preparatory course like Physics 100.
    • Identifying students at risk:
      • Self evaluation test.
    • Class structure:
      • Pre-flight, Discussion, Homework and Quizzes.
    • Preliminary Results.
      • Is it helping?
    • Follow-up:
      • Physics 199M.
    • The Future:
      • Web based lectures with audio.
      • NSF sponsored minority scholarship program.
overview of the uicu calc based introductory physics sequence

500 in 111

1000 in 112

400 in 113/114

1000 in 111

500 in 112

600 in 113/114

Fall

Spring

Summer

Overview of the UICU calc-basedintroductory physics sequence
  • Taken by all physics & engineering undergrads
    • Physics 111 (4 hrs, mechanics)
    • Physics 112 (4 hrs, E&M)
    • Physics 113 (2 hrs, thermo/stat-mech)
    • Physics 114 (2 hrs, waves/quantum)
  • Taken by about 4000 students per year

Most freshmen start here

In Phase

Out of Phase

why a preparatory course
Why a preparatory course?
  • Despite the University of Illinois’ C of E high admission standards, nearly 20% of accepted students are inadequately prepared to pass our introductory mechanics course (i.e. they earn a D or F).
    • The failure rate is even higher for minority groups.
      • As high as 68% for African Americans.
  • Many students do not realize that they are poorly prepared.
  • We need to identify inadequately prepared students and help them gear up for Physics 111 and beyond.
student selection
Student Selection
  • Self evaluation quiz is offered in the Fall semester to all freshman in the College of Engineering as well as all students enrolled in physics 111.
  • Students receiving a score below a certain cutoff are invited to take Physics 100 (1 credit-hour).
    • Much less than half of identified students choose to participate initially.
      • This should really be a placement exam!
  • Physics 100 does not officially start until about 3 weeks into the fall semester.
    • Gives students time to evaluate their situation
    • Many decide to take Physics 100 after doing poorly on the first Physics 111 mid-term exam.
  • Typical Physics 100 enrollment ~ 100
the self evaluation
The Self Evaluation
  • Tests basic math and physics background.
  • Students take this (individually) on the web.
    • No time pressure while taking test.
    • They can try the test as many times as they want to (before deadline), although they are not given feedback until after the deadline.
  • Consists of 16 multiple choice questions.
    • 8 of these (found the most predictive) are used to arrive at their “score”.
  • Students that get less than half right are invited to take Physics 100.
example self evaluation questions
Example Self Evaluation Questions…

Did you take high school physics?

(a) Yes

(b) No

(c) Yes but it was lousy

(Background)

example self evaluation questions1

y

W

V

A

x

Example Self Evaluation Questions…

Here we have two vectors V and W. The angle between these vectors is A.

1) What is the component of V parallel to W in terms of A and the magnitudes of V and W?

(a) V

(b) W

(c) V sin(A)

(d) V cos(A)

(e) W sin(A)

(f) W cos(A)

(Basic trig)

example self evaluation questions2
Example Self Evaluation Questions…

An oarsman can row his boat 3 mph is still water. He sets out on the Illinois River, which flows at 5 mph. We are interested in what an observer on shore measures.

1) When the man heads the boat directly downstream and rows as fast as he can, how fast does the observer on shore see the boat going?

(a) 2 mph (b) 3 mph (c) 5 mph (d) 7 mph (e) 8 mph

2) When the man heads the boat directly downstream and rows as fast as he can, which direction does the observer on shore see the boat going?

(a) upstream (b) downstream

(reasoning)

example self evaluation questions3
Example Self Evaluation Questions…

The force on an object in uniform circular motion is given by F = mv2/r.

1) Consider two equal mass objects moving around the same circle, one with speed V1 and one with speed V2, where V1 = 2V2. What is the ratio of the forces on these objects?

(a) F1/F2 = 1

(b) F1/F2 = 2

(c) F1/F2 = 4

(d) F1/F2 = 1/2

(e) F1/F2 = 1/4

(scaling)

class structure
Class Structure:

No Lecture

  • Weekly cycle:
    • Textbook reading assignment
    • Web Based Homework (based on reading)
      • Traditional problems.
      • Interactive Examples (IE’s).
      • Unlimited tries before deadline, immediate feedback.
    • Web Based Preflight (JITT)
      • Provides information to instructor prior to discussion section.
      • Graded on participation only
    • Discussion (2-hour capstone)
      • Group problem solving facilitated by instructor
      • Graded on participation
  • Also:
    • Three web-based quizzes
    • Written (M/C) final exam
slide14

Interactive Examples (Socratic Dialogue)

Start by asking a numeric question(usually multi-step)

when students click in “Help”…

slide15

…”Help” results in a discussion followed by some multiple-choice questions that lead them toward the answer…

slide17

…these steps are designed toteach students problem solvingapproaches as well as physics…

slide18

Eventually they get another (simpler) numeric question whoseanswer is needed to solve the primary numeric question.

slide19

Clicking on “Help” again results in asimilar dialogue as the first time,although one level “deeper”.

- Problems can be 4-5 levels deep

- Eventually they get enough info to solve the problem.

slide20

Once they get right the answer

They get arecap

And somefollow-upquestions

interactive example features
Interactive Example Features:
  • Created to develop concept based problem solving skill.
  • Quantitative Problems
  • Socratic help
    • Conceptual Analysis
    • Strategic Analysis
    • Quantitative Analysis
  • Recap
  • Follow up questions
student logs
Student Logs
  • We record all student submissions on IEs: (the conversation)
this is research data
This is Research data!
  • How much time do students spend on the IEs?
  • How well do the students do on their first response to questions?
  • How deep into the IE do students go?
pre flights
Pre-Flights
  • Due before discussion (6am Monday)
  • Used by instructor to guide discussion work
  • Graded on participation only

(This was Mondays talk)

discussion section
Discussion Section:
  • Students work in groups on problems designed after examining homework & preflight answers.
    • Purpose is to tie up loose ends.
    • Students should leave understanding everything done during the previous week.
      • i.e. reading, homework, preflights are capped off by discussion.
    • Graded on attendance & participation
slide27

Average physics 111 students

Average physics 100 students

All students

Physics 111 Grade

Self Evaluation Score

Are we helping students…

Can we reduce the failure rate of under-prepared students in Physics 111/112/113/114 ?

Probably YES (research by Gladding & Shoaf)

distribution of final grades physics 100 alumni all physics 111 taking physics 111 students
DISTRIBUTION OF FINAL GRADESPhysics 100 alumni All Physics 111 taking Physics 111 students
so are we helping
So…are we helping ??
  • It seems like we might be, however there is a is a big caveat: Physics 100 students are self selected !
    • Are we getting only those students that were going to do well anyway ?
    • We need more data to study this.
      • A real placement test would be very helpful !
follow up
Follow Up:
  • Alumni of Physics 100 test to need/want more help with physics as they work through the Physics 111/112 sequence.
  • We now offer 1-hour courses for Physics 100 graduates that parallel the regular Physics 111 (spring) and 112 (fall) courses.
    • Weekly 2-hour tutorial sections.
    • Graded on participation only.
  • Although we know the students are very happy with these, we are presently attempting to quantify the effect.
    • Small statistics so far.
the future
The Future:
  • So far, results are encouraging; however, we would like to verify the validity of the Self Evaluation test.
    • Placement test.
    • Quantify the effects of the course.
  • Increase Minority Participation.
    • NSF Grant to fund minority participation program.
    • Working together with office of Minority Engineering Program ( M.E.P.) at U. of I.
  • Web-based interactive lectures with audio.
    • Students want to have a formal lecture.
      • Cant do this “formally” and keep low time impact.
    • Next best thing may be web-based lecture notes.
      • Sound will provide extra dimension.