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Gender Effects in Physics Assessments of Kinematic Graphs

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering Physics Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

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Paper Authors


Robert A Ross University of Detroit Mercy

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Robert A. Ross is a Professor of Physics in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Detroit Mercy. His research interests include semiconductor devices, photovoltaics, and physics pedagogy. Ross received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from Wayne State University in Detroit.

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Katherine Snyder University of Detroit Mercy

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In a previous publication we argued there were benefits to organizing student learning outcomes and course objectives around the principle of the operational definition of technical terms. We believe it simplifies the assessment of student learning. In addition, it facilitates determining a particular student’s strengths and weaknesses, and as a consequence can help develop strategies to increase student achievement.

In our introductory course a sample of two of the learning outcomes are: Compare written, algebraic, and graphical descriptions of motion, and recognize the relationships between x(t), v(t), and a(t) graphs. Of course these graphs are related by derivatives and integrals, topics introduced in the first semester calculus course. Over several years at the University of XX students were given six v(t) graphs and asked a series of questions that can be correctly answered only if they recognize how the item in question is related to the graph. All answers are related to the value, slope, or the integral of the velocity. For example, the question “Which object (or objects) spent some time speeding up?” requires recognition that speed is related to velocity by the absolute value. In the previous work, results were presented in aggregate form for eight sections of introductory physics classes over 6 years. In this paper we show the results by gender and find substantial differences that we believe are significant.

Furthermore, we have collected the results of the Determining and Interpreting Resistive Electric Circuit Concepts Test (DIRECT)1 for over eleven years and have previously presented results for algebra and calculus based courses. In this paper we show results for male and female students in both types of courses.

In the paper we discuss our analysis of the results of the assessments and of student interviews. We have some interesting preliminary findings that indicate that some of the differences can be reduced by facilitating verbal reasoning.

1 P.V. Engelhardt and R. Beichner, “Students’ understanding of direct current resistive electrical circuits,” Am. J. Phys. 72 (1) 98-115 (2004).

Ross, R. A., & Snyder, K. (2016, June), Gender Effects in Physics Assessments of Kinematic Graphs Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27009

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