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A2.05 - Implementation of Active Learning/Studio Format Introductory Physics at Kalamazoo College: 4 Years of Faculty and Student Experiences 

At Kalamazoo College, we teach only one introductory physics course sequence, bringing together students from physics, pre-engineering, chemistry, and biology. Our students declare a major in their second year, so our combined course gives students interested in multidisciplinary science maximum flexibility in choosing a major. The sequence is calculus-based, and typically enrolls about 100 students per year. About 60% of the students are Sophomore Chemistry majors, while about 30% are First-years, mostly intereted in Physics and/or our program in dual-degree engineering. About 50% of the students have strong interests in medical careers, and perhaps 25% will eventually enter medical school. Because our students are diverse in preparation and academic interests, our experiences should have broad applicability within the STEM subjects. Over the last four years, we have transitioned the structure of our introductory physics sequence from a lecture/lab/discussion format with some interactive engagement to a studio/workshop format where small-group problem solving and discussion are combined with hands-on and computer-based activities. We have also shifted from traditional homework/midterm/final exam assessments to a mastery-based system of daily quizzes on explicit learning objectives, graded on a pass/fail scale, with some opportunities for reassessment. Our studio format is essentially a “flipped” classroom. Students are responsible for reading before class, enforced with daily reading quizzes, so the bulk of our class time can be spent on problem solving and activities, including interactive computer simulations. To engage our diverse student population, we prioritize topics that are broadly applicable and exercises that highlight applications in other disciplines. To measure the efficacy of the changes to our course format and assessment structure, we use physics-specific concept inventories (Force Concept Inventory and Conceptual Survey on Electricity and Magnetism) to measure learning gain through pre- and post-testing. We also use an attitude survey (Maryland Physics Expectation Survey), as well as a general test of scientific reasoning ability (Lawson Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning) and course evaluation data. The first full year of implementation of the studio format was marked by the highest learning gains we had measured in ten years of data on the concept inventories, but also by high levels of student dissatisfaction on the course evaluations. Subsequent modifications have improved student satisfaction with the course sequence, while learning gains have returned to similar levels to those measured in our previous format. Similarly, we see an inverse relationship between learning gains on the concept inventories and attitudes about the nature of physics and how to learn it, as measured by the Maryland Physics Expectation Survey. 

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