Physics & Astronomy

					                                  Physics & Astronomy

Example 1 – Assessment of student learning for large introductory courses: the LON-
CAPA system of course management.

Learning Outcome/Goals:
   1. student to develop problem-solving skills related to the mathematical theories of
      physics; i.e., the ability to carry out quantitative calculations related to physical

Activities in Support of Goal:
   1. The Department of Physics and Astronomy provides courses in these sciences for
       three categories of students: (i) those majoring in physics or astronomy; (ii) those
       majoring in other sciences or technical fields such as engineering; (iii) those
       majoring in subjects outside science or technology (i.e., general education or
       integrative studies courses). Assessment of student learning is important for all
       three—quite different—categories.
   2. The LON-CAPA computer system, used for course management and personalized
       homework assignments, was primarily developed by faculty and staff from the
       Department of Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University. This system
       provides ample opportunities for assessment of student learning and effective
       teaching, especially for large introductory courses (PHY 183/4 and PHY 231/2)
       and integrative studies courses (ISP 205 and 209). Each student receives
       personalized homework assignments generated by the LON-CAPA system.
       Students may collaborate on the solutions of their assignments—indeed they are
       encouraged to work together—but a student cannot simply copy the answers of
       another student because the assigned questions are not identical. The instructor
       obtains a detailed statistical analysis of the student’s performance on each
       assignment. Because the questions are personalized, the results reflect accurately
       the level of achievement in the class.

Assessment Methods:
   1. The LON-CAPA problems: provide data on the development of this skill. The
      instructor also obtains from the LON-CAPA system a statistical analysis sorted by
      the separate exercises in an assignment. This information yields an assessment of
      the effectiveness of teaching for each topic in the course. When the “degree of
      difficulty” parameter reveals that one or a set of problems was missed by a
      significant number of students, the topic may be discussed further in class to
      improve the comprehension of the students.The LON-CAPA system, which
      originated at Michigan State University, has been adopted by many other colleges
      and universities. It has been the subject of papers published in journals of science
      education, and its development has been supported by the National Science
      Foundation. This program, which defines clear student outcomes in personalized
      assignments, and which provides accurate data for assessment of both student
       learning and effective teaching is an essential tool for our large-enrollment
       introductory courses in physics and astronomy.

Example 2 – Assessment of student learning and effective teaching for students who
are majoring in physics and astronomy: the FCI and CSEM exams.

Learning Objectives/Goals:
   2. Undergraduate students who are majoring in physics and astronomy must
      comprehend the qualitative concepts of physics as well as the quantitative theories
      of physics. Research on physics education has shown that some students do not
      fully grasp the essential ideas of physics from their introductory courses, and
      consequently are not sufficiently prepared for the more advanced courses that
      they would take as juniors and seniors.

Assessment Methods:
   1. Force Concept Inventory (FCI) exam: To assess the student learning and effective
      teaching of basic concepts, for students who are majoring in physics and
      astronomy, the Department of Physics and Astronomy has begun to use the Force
      Concept Inventory (FCI) exam for mechanics and the Concept Survey of
      Electromagnetism (CSEM) exam for electricity and magnetism.Students in PHY
      321 (Classical Mechanics) are given the FCI exam. These students are
      sophomores or juniors. PHY 321 is an intermediate-level course on mechanics,
      with a heavy emphasis on the mathematics of calculus and differential equations.
      The purpose of the FCI exam is to assess the students’ comprehension of basic
      concepts of mechanics and hence their readiness to proceed to the intermediate-
      level course. We have found that most physics majors can answer all the FCI
      questions correctly. However, some students will miss a few of the FCI questions;
      and a few students will fail the exam, with a significant number of incorrect
      answers. To intervene on behalf of the students who have not grasped the
      concepts from introductory physics, one instructor has required students to write a
      detailed explanation of each missed question—explaining which law of
      mechanics applies to the question and its meaning. The FCI exam is widely used
      to assess student learning and effective teaching on the concepts of mechanics.
   2. The CSEM exam is similarly given to students at the beginning of PHY 471
      (Electricity and Magnetism 1).

Jun Wang Jun Wang Dr
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