Tale of two curricula: The performance of 2000 students in introductory electromagnetism

Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 020105 – Published 5 October 2009
Matthew A. Kohlmyer, Marcos D. Caballero, Richard Catrambone, Ruth W. Chabay, Lin Ding, Mark P. Haugan, M. Jackson Marr, Bruce A. Sherwood, and Michael F. Schatz

Abstract

The performance of over 2000 students in introductory calculus-based electromagnetism (E&M) courses at four large research universities was measured using the Brief Electricity and Magnetism Assessment (BEMA). Two different curricula were used at these universities: a traditional E&M curriculum and the Matter & Interactions (M&I) curriculum. At each university, postinstruction BEMA test averages were significantly higher for the M&I curriculum than for the traditional curriculum. The differences in post-test averages cannot be explained by differences in variables such as preinstruction BEMA scores, grade point average, or SAT Reasoning Test (SAT) scores. BEMA performance on categories of items organized by subtopic was also compared at one of the universities; M&I averages were significantly higher in each topic. The results suggest that the M&I curriculum is more effective than the traditional curriculum at teaching E&M concepts to students, possibly because the learning progression in M&I reorganizes and augments the traditional sequence of topics, for example, by increasing early emphasis on the vector field concept and by emphasizing the effects of fields on matter at the microscopic level.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.020105

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  • Received 8 October 2008
  • Published 5 October 2009
  • Publisher error corrected 12 October 2009

This article is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.

© 2009 The American Physical Society

Erratum

Publisher's Note: Tale of two curricula: The performance of 2000 students in introductory electromagnetism [Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 020105 (2009)]

Matthew A. Kohlmyer, Marcos D. Caballero, Richard Catrambone, Ruth W. Chabay, Lin Ding, Mark P. Haugan, M. Jackson Marr, Bruce A. Sherwood, and Michael F. Schatz
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 029901 (2009)

Authors & Affiliations

Matthew A. Kohlmyer1,*, Marcos D. Caballero2, Richard Catrambone3, Ruth W. Chabay4, Lin Ding5, Mark P. Haugan6, M. Jackson Marr3, Bruce A. Sherwood4, and Michael F. Schatz2,†

  • 1School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA
  • 2Center for Nonlinear Science and School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA
  • 3School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA
  • 4Department of Physics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA
  • 5Department of Physics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA
  • 6Department of Physics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA

  • *Present address: Department of Physics, North Carolina State University; makohlmy@unity.ncsu.edu
  • Corresponding author; michael.schatz@physics.gatech.edu

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