A Review of the Teaching Methods Applied in the Introductory Physics Class at Kalamazoo College
The goal of this study is to examine and evaluate the teaching methods used in the introductory physics course at Kalamazoo College. Previously the class was taught as a lecture course which included some peer instruction, but due to an increasing amount of research evidence2 the structure was switched to an active learning format. Additionally, the grading structure changed in 2014 from a classical point based grading system, to a mastery based system. Along with the course grades, two different surveys were used to evaluate the students' performance. The revised Force Concept Inventory (FCI)3 was used to assess students' conceptual understanding of Newtonian mechanics, and the Maryland Physics Expectations (MPEX)4 survey was used to gauge their attitude. The results show that overall, students learned more from an active learning course than from a lecture course. When analyzing the mastery based grading system, it was found that there was in fact no loss of retention over the duration of the course. However it appears that for some students, this grading structure may not accurately represent what they have learned. There also seems to be a negative correlation between students' attitudes and their course grades. This leads me to believe that the course structure is effective, but the grading system needs additional attention.