S10-DISC5-5 - Using Coupled-Multiple Response Questions to Examine Conceptual Understanding in Mechanics Courses

2. Research-to-Practice Work In Progress
Laura Ríos1 , Benjamin Lutz1, Eileen Rossman1, Christine Lee1, Dominic Trageser1, Maggie Nevrly1, Megan Phillips1, Brian Self1
1 California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

WORK IN PROGRESS:  When a large SUV slams into a compact car, does it exert more force on the car than the car exerts on the SUV? If I am going around a curve at a constant speed, does that mean my acceleration is zero? Mechanics courses are full of non-intuitive, conceptually difficult principles that are difficult to correct. In order to help students with conceptual growth, particularly if we want to develop individualized learning modules, we first must determine student’s prior understanding.

To do this, we are using coupled-multiple response (CMR) questions in introductory physics (a mechanics course), engineering statics, and engineering dynamics. Coupled-multiple response (CMR) tests are assessments that use a nuanced rubric to examine underlying reasoning elements students may have for decisions on a multiple-choice test (e.g., Wilcox and Pollock, 2015). CMR assessments are time-intensive to create initially, but the outcome is well worth the effort; with a nuanced and targeted rubric, CMR assessments are uniquely situated to pinpoint specific student conceptual misunderstandings for further intervention. Unlike multiple-choice questions that have one correct response and several incorrect distractors, CMR items include responses that research and teaching experience suggest might be appealing to students for particular reasonings.    

Our physics instructors are using free-response, evidenced-based weekly assessments. The items on these in-class assessments were created at the University of Washington (Shaffer and McDermott, 2005) and the University of Maryland (Smith and Wittmann, 2007). One of our researchers is currently analyzing approximately 900 responses (120 responses for 8 assessments). This large number of responses, while increasing analysis time, allows us to explore a wide space of student conceptions and will ultimately lead to accurately targeted interventions for use in adaptive technology.

Statics instructors are following a similar approach, and are giving weekly quizzes using free-response questions. Analysis is just beginning on these questions. In dynamics, we are analyzing responses from concept questions on final examinations. Initial questions are in the form of multiple choice, but students are also asked to explain their answers. These explanations are being analyzed to develop the second part of the CMR assessments so that we can target why students chose each answer.

After we finish data collection, we will formulate coupled-multiple response questions based on student answers. These questions will then be validated by mechanics instructors and educational researchers, and then beta tested on students at both community colleges and four-year institutions. Using the validated student answers will help us to develop targeted and individualized interventions to aid in conceptual growth for students in mechanics courses.

P.S. Shaffer PS and L.C. McDermott. A research-based approach to improving student understanding of the vector nature of kinematical concepts. American Journal of Physics. 73(10):921-31. 2005.

T.I. Smith, and M.C.  Wittmann. Comparing three methods for teaching Newton’s third law. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 3(2), p.020105, 2007

B.R. Wilcox, and S.J. Pollock. Validation and analysis of the coupled multiple response Colorado upper-division electrostatics diagnostic. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 11(2), p.020130, 201.