Education research: MPEX pre- and post-instruction results (Cuesta College, Fall Semester 2009)

The Maryland Physics Expectations survey (MPEX, Redish, Saul, and Steinberg, 1998) was administered to Cuesta College Physics 205A (college physics, algebra-based, mandatory adjunct laboratory) students at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA. The MPEX was given during the first week of the semester, and then on the last week of the semester, to quantify student attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about physics using six question categories, rating responses as either favorable or unfavorable towards:
  1. Independence--beliefs about learning physics--whether it means receiving information or involves an active process of reconstructing one's own understanding;
  2. Coherence--beliefs about the structure of physics knowledge--as a collection of isolated pieces or as a single coherent system;
  3. Concepts--beliefs about the content of physics knowledge--as formulas or as concepts that underlie the formulas;
  4. Reality Link--beliefs about the connection between physics and reality--whether physics is unrelated to experiences outside the classroom or whether it is useful to think about them together;
  5. Math Link--beliefs about the role of mathematics in learning physics--whether the mathematical;
    formalism is used as a way of representing information about physical phenomena or mathematics is just used to calculate numbers;
  6. Effort--beliefs about the kind of activities and work necessary to make sense out of physics--whether they expect to think carefully and evaluate what they are doing based on available materials and feedback or not.
Cuesta College
Physics 205A Fall Semester 2009 section 72177
North County (Paso Robles, CA) campus
(N = 13, matched pairs,
excluding negative informed consent form responses)

Percentage of favorable:unfavorable responses
Overall Indep. Coher. Concept Real. Math Effort
Initial 62:15 54:17 57:14 43:22 81: 6 63:11 71:11
Final 58:22 47:17 63:22 48:31 90: 0 65:20 49:26

Cuesta College
Physics 205A Fall Semester 2009 sections 70854, 70855
San Luis Obispo, CA campus
(N = 43, matched pairs,
excluding negative informed consent form responses)

Percentage of favorable:unfavorable responses
Overall Indep. Coher. Concept Real. Math Effort
Initial 53:23 38:23 48:29 45:27 65:10 52:20 70:12
Final 44:29 33:29 37:38 41:32 66:12 40:31 53:26
As discussed in a previous blog post, the smaller NC campus section had a statistically significantly much higher post-instruction Force Concept Inventory (FCI) score and Hake gain than the larger SLO campus section. Perhaps related is the fact that the NC campus section has much higher overall, independence, coherence, reality, and math attitudes, compared to the SLO campus section (although the SLO campus section results are comparable to other sections in previous semesters). For both the NC and SLO campus sections this semester, as in previous semesters, that there are generally initial-to-final negative shifts in attitudes, with a few exceptions.

The notable results for the NC campus section this semester is likely primarily due to the difference in student demographics and class size, compared to the more homogeneous, larger SLO campus section. Next semester (Spring 2010), many of the NC students, and a few of the SLO campus students will continue on in the same section of Physics 205B, where they will also take the MPEX pre- and post-instruction, the results of which will be analyzed and posted here in the following months.

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