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Conceptual Issues And Student Attitudes Toward Active Learning Exercises In Introductory Mechanics

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Physics in the K-16 Classroom

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.317.1 - 8.317.10



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Paper Authors

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Eswara Venugopal University of Detroit Mercy

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Robert Ross University of Detroit Mercy

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1558

Conceptual Issues and Student Attitudes Toward Active Learning Exercises in Introductory Mechanics

Robert Ross, Prasad Venugopal

University of Detroit Mercy Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Abstract – This paper will report on results of an assessment of in-class active learning exercises in introductory physics courses. The assessment is being conducted to explore conceptual issues in student understanding of Newton’s Laws. Students work in small groups on activities that have been specifically designed for this purpose. Examples of these activities are provided. We also present the results of a survey of student attitudes toward their experience in collaborative learning. The goal of this paper is to explore common misconceptions and student difficulties in mechanics across a wide range of student abilities and backgrounds. Suggestions are provided on how to enhance the classroom experience based on these activities and surveys.


The past several years have seen a renewed enthusiasm for the development of new instructional materials and approaches in introductory physics education at the college level1 . At the core of these efforts is a shift away from a traditional physics curriculum that emphasized textbook problem-solving, descriptive knowledge, deductive reasoning and a top-down approach to instruction. Physics education research has been instrumental in the move towards a student- oriented approach that recognizes that students learn better when they are actively engaged in the learning process itself. In particular, the pioneering works of Arnold Arons and Lillian McDermott have provided an excellent framework for systematically modifying the traditional method of instruction2,3.

Such an approach has been shown to be particularly useful in engaging a diverse student body, such as exists in the College of Engineering & Science at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM)4,5. The student body at UDM is nearly sixty percent women, and over forty percent students from underrepresented groups. Enrolment in introductory physics courses that are part of various engineering undergraduate programs, broadly reflect this diversity.

This paper represents an attempt by the authors to further incorporate a more student-centered approach to the subject through the use of in-class exercises that promote critical thinking and collaborative learning. The paper is written as follows: In the next section, we give a brief description of the exercises and the goals underlying these activities. Subsequently, we analyze

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Venugopal, E., & Ross, R. (2003, June), Conceptual Issues And Student Attitudes Toward Active Learning Exercises In Introductory Mechanics Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11706

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015