20140530

Education research: SASS, ECCE and student learning outcomes assessment (Cuesta College, spring semester 2014)

Student achievement of course learning outcomes are assessed by administering an Student Assessment of Skills Survey (SASS), a five-point Likert scale questionnaire (Patrick M. Len, in development), and a shortened version (22 out of 45 questions) of the Electric Circuit Concept Evaluation (David Sokoloff, University of Oregon) to Physics 205B students at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA. This is the second semester of a two-semester introductory physics course (college physics, algebra-based, mandatory adjunct laboratory).

The SASS is administered online during the last week of instruction, to be completed before the final exam. The ECCE is administered in class during the last week of instruction.

The SASS results from this semester are compiled below. Values for the mean and standard deviations are given next to the modal response category for each question. Also listed is the percentage of students who have self-assessed themselves as having successfully achieving a learning outcome (responding "average," "above average," or "excellent") as opposed to not achieving success with a learning outcome (responding "very poor" or "below average").

Cuesta College
Student Assessment of Skills Survey (SASS)
Physics 205B spring semester 2014 sections 30882, 30883
N = 37

The questions below are designed to characterize your achievement of each of the learning outcomes by filling in a bubble on the rating scale provided to the right of each statement.

Mark the level of achievement that best describes your learning at the completion of the course.

1. Quantify the frequency, speed and wavelength of light.
(Achieved: 92%, unachieved: 8%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ** [2]
Average.  ************** [14]
Above average.  ********** [10]
Excellent.  ********** [10]

2. Analyze the polarization of light.
(Achieved: 97%, unachieved: 3%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  * [1]
Average.  **************** [16]
Above average.  ********** [10]
Excellent.  ********** [10]

3. Analyze reflection, refraction, and total internal reflection.
(Achieved: 92%, unachieved: 8%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  *** [3]
Average.  ************* [13]
Above average.  ************** [14]
Excellent.  ****** [6]

4. Analyze images produced by lenses.
(Achieved: 86%, unachieved: 14%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ***** [5]
Average.  **************** [16]
Above average.  *********** [11]
Excellent.  **** [4]

5. Understand optical systems such as cameras, eyes, simple magnifiers, microscopes and telescopes operate.
(Achieved: 73%, unachieved: 27%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ********* [9]
Average.  **************** [16]
Above average.  ********** [10]
Excellent.  * [1]

6. Analyze the constructive/destructive interference of waves.
(Achieved: 89%, unachieved: 11%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ************** [14]
Above average.  ************** [14]
Excellent.  ***** [5]

7. Understand how double-slits produce constructive/destructive interference.
(Achieved: 92%, unachieved: 8%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  *** [3]
Average.  **************** [16]
Above average.  **************** [16]
Excellent.  ** [2]

8. Analyze the diffraction produced by a single-slit.
(Achieved: 94%, unachieved: 6%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ** [2]
Average.  ******************* [19]
Above average.  ************** [14]
Excellent.  * [1]

9. Understand how charges behave differently in conductors and insulators.
(Achieved: 76%, unachieved: 24%)
Very poor.  *** [3]
Below average.  ****** [6]
Average.  **************** [16]
Above average.  ************ [12]
Excellent.  [0]

10. Understand how a source charge exerts a force on a test charge (the direct model).
(Achieved: 86%, unachieved: 14%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  *************** [15]
Excellent.  ** [2]

11. Analyze the electric force exerted on a test charge by several source charges.
(Achieved: 81%, unachieved: 19%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ****** [6]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  ************** [14]
Excellent.  * [1]

12. Understand how a source charge creates an electric field, which exerts a force on a test charge (the two-step field model).
(Achieved: 78%, unachieved: 22%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  ************** [14]
Above average.  ************ [12]
Excellent.  *** [3]

13. Analyze the electric field created by several source charges.
(Achieved: 86%, unachieved: 14%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ****************** [18]
Above average.  ********** [10]
Excellent.  **** [4]

14. Understand the relationship between electric potential and electric potential energy.
(Achieved: 75%, unachieved: 25%)
Very poor.  ** [2]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  ********** [10]
Excellent.  ** [2]

15. Analyze the characteristics of parallel plate capacitors.
(Achieved: 81%, unachieved: 19%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ****** [6]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  ********* [9]
Excellent.  ****** [6]

16. Quantify (using Ohm's law) the resistance, electric potential difference, and current of a circuit element.
(Achieved: 89%, unachieved: 11%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  *** [3]
Average.  ************** [14]
Above average.  ************* [13]
Excellent.  ****** [6]

17. Understand how to reduce configurations of resistors to an equivalent resistance.
(Achieved: 89%, unachieved: 11%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  *** [3]
Average.  *********** [11]
Above average.  ********** [10]
Excellent.  ************ [12]

18. Understand how to apply Kirchhoff's circuit rules (the junction rule and the loop rule).
(Achieved: 86%, unachieved: 14%)
Very poor.  ** [2]
Below average.  *** [3]
Average.  ************** [14]
Above average.  ********* [9]
Excellent.  ******** [8]

19. Analyze the power used or supplied by circuit elements.
(Achieved: 89%, unachieved: 11%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  *********** [11]
Excellent.  ****** [6]

20. Understand how a source magnet or current-carrying wire creates a magnetic field, which exerts a force on a moving charge or current-carrying wire (the two-step field model).
(Achieved: 86%, unachieved: 14%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ***** [5]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  *********** [11]
Excellent.  ****** [6]

21. Analyze the direction of a magnetic fields and forces using the appropriate right-hand rules.
(Achieved: 89%, unachieved: 11%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ********** [10]
Above average.  ************ [12]
Excellent.  *********** [11]

22. Understand how generators work.
(Achieved: 74%, unachieved: 26%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ******** [8]
Average.  *********** [16]
Above average.  ******** [8]
Excellent.  ** [2]

23. Understand how changing the magnetic flux through a wire loop produces an induced emf and an induced current (Faraday's law and Lenz's law).
(Achieved: 81%, unachieved: 19%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ****** [6]
Average.  ******** [8]
Above average.  ************ [12]
Excellent.  ********** [10]

24. Analyze the step-up and step-down behavior of transformers.
(Achieved: 76%, unachieved: 24%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ******** [8]
Average.  ************** [14]
Above average.  ********* [9]
Excellent.  ***** [5]

25. Understand the conditions for stability and instability in atomic nuclei.
(Achieved: 76%, unachieved: 24%)
Very poor.  ** [2]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  ****************** [18]
Above average.  ******* [7]
Excellent.  *** [3]

26. Analyze various radioactive decay processes (alpha, beta-plus, beta-minus, electron capture, and gamma).
(Achieved: 75%, unachieved: 25%)
Very poor.  ** [2]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  ******* [7]
Excellent.  ***** [5]

27. Analyze the time-dependent nature of radioactive decay activity.
(Achieved: 70%, unachieved: 30%)
Very poor.  **** [4]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  ********** [10]
Above average.  ************* [13]
Excellent.  *** [3]

28. Understand how Feynman diagrams are used to depict fundamental subatomic processes and interactions.
(Achieved: 73%, unachieved: 27%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ********* [9]
Average.  ********** [10]
Above average.  ************* [13]
Excellent.  **** [4]

Of the 28 student learning outcomes in the SASS, 15 were self-reported as being achieved by at least 85% of students, listed below in order of decreasing success:
2. Analyze the polarization of light. (97%)
8. Analyze the diffraction produced by a single-slit. (94%)
1. Quantify the frequency, speed and wavelength of light. (92%)
3. Analyze reflection, refraction, and total internal reflection. (92%)
7. Understand how double-slits produce constructive/destructive interference. (92%)
6. Analyze the constructive/destructive interference of waves. (89%)
16. Quantify (using Ohm's law) the resistance, electric potential difference, and current of a circuit element. (89%)
17. Understand how to reduce configurations of resistors to an equivalent resistance. (89%)
19. Analyze the power used or supplied by circuit elements. (89%)
21. Analyze the direction of a magnetic fields and forces using the appropriate right-hand rules. (89%)
4. Analyze images produced by lenses. (86%)
10. Understand how a source charge exerts a force on a test charge (the direct model). (86%)
13. Analyze the electric field created by several source charges. (86%)
18. Understand how to apply Kirchhoff's circuit rules (the junction rule and the loop rule). (86%)
20. Understand how a source magnet or current-carrying wire creates a magnetic field, which exerts a force on a moving charge or current-carrying wire (the two-step field model). (86%)

However, 13 student learning outcomes were self-reported as being achieved by less than 85% of students, listed below in order of decreasing success:
11. Analyze the electric force exerted on a test charge by several source charges. (81%)
15. Analyze the characteristics of parallel plate capacitors. (81%)
23. Understand how changing the magnetic flux through a wire loop produces an induced emf and an induced current (Faraday's law and Lenz's law). (81%)
12. Understand how a source charge creates an electric field, which exerts a force on a test charge (the two-step field model). (78%)
9. Understand how charges behave differently in conductors and insulators. (76%)
24. Analyze the step-up and step-down behavior of transformers. (76%)
25. Understand the conditions for stability and instability in atomic nuclei. (76%)
14. Understand the relationship between electric potential and electric potential energy. (75%)
26. Analyze various radioactive decay processes (alpha, beta-plus, beta-minus, electron capture, and gamma). (75%)
22. Understand how generators work. (74%)
5. Understand optical systems such as cameras, eyes, simple magnifiers, microscopes and telescopes operate. (73%)
28. Understand how Feynman diagrams are used to depict fundamental subatomic processes and interactions. (73%)
27. Analyze the time-dependent nature of radioactive decay activity. (70%)

Student learning outcomes 16, 17, 18, and 19 for this semester were also directly assessed using a shortened version of Electric Circuit Concept Evaluation.

As per the ACCJC (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges), results from this indirect assessment SASS tool, along with the direct assessment ECCE tool will be used for course/program improvement by increasing emphasis on these lowest three learning outcomes in instruction in future semesters.

Cuesta College District Calendar Committee: faculty feedback on spring break, flex day placement proposals

Cuesta College District Calendar Committee
Faculty feedback form on spring break, flex day placement
(spring semester 2014)
N = 77

Background:
The District Calendar Committee would like to gauge faculty approval on the placement of spring break for academic years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 in the 10th week of the semester and/or the "first full week in April."

Motivation:
  • Allows priority registration for summer classes to start after the 12th week, after the drop with "W" deadline, instead of possibly being interrupted by a late Easter-connected spring break (which occurred this academic year 2013-2014).
  • Spring break placement is now consistent rather than being cycled through very late and very early in the semester from year-to-year, possibly improving student retention:
    Spring 2014 spring break: April 21 - 26
    Spring 2015 spring break: April 7 – 11
    Spring 2016 spring break: March 29 – April 2
Proposal:
Are you in favor of placing spring break in the 10th week of the semester (and/or the "first full week in April," as appropriate) at Cuesta College?

Yes.  ********************************************************** [75%; 58 votes]
 
No.  ************* [17%; 13 votes]
 
No opinion/not sure.  ****** [8%; 6 votes]

The following are all of the optional comments to this question, verbatim and unedited.
"Having spring break at the end of April destroys the momentum of a course as students approach the home stretch, especially in project-based subjects. Spring break should not be a de facto religious holiday, tied to Easter. Rather, it should always be scheduled fairly soon after midterms."

"Prefer end of March spring break. Students need the time to recover academically and emotionally. Having a break closer to the real mid semester is better for employees and students in terms of truly having a 'break' from school. I bevel ultimately this can help with campus retention efforts."

"I would like Spring Break adjacent to Easter, either before or after. I gives more time for students returning home for this family holiday."

"I would prefer our Spring Break to be consistent with San Luis Coastal School District, which I believe is the same as Cal Poly. If that is always the 10th week, I would be in favor of this proposal. If not, I'd prefer that we make it consistent with schools in our district."

"Keep the Break the week following Easter. If you want to improve student retention, go to a 16-week semester like most other CC's have!"

"It should NEVER again be scheduled as it was in 2014. Schedule it normally, like everyone else in the area. Use simple matter, common sense practices for selection."

"I strongly support the idea of linking the break to mid-semester."

"I am in favor of a break not scheduled time off that is disruptive. It seems many students travel w/ their families on spring break. Additionally students seem to take Cal Poly's spring break. If these occur at the same time students would be back in one week. Retention is poor with the break so late in the term."

"Please align with San luis Coastal and other local schools as it is difficult or very expensive for students and staff with children"

"I would like my spring break to be the same as my children's who attend school in the Lucia Mar School District."

"I think it would be best if our spring break lined up with the spring break for the large local school districts"

"I'm concerned with the 'possibly improving student retention' comment. It doesn't make sense to make changes based on a non-fact like that."

"It is helpful to both faculty and students with children if spring break is aligned with the area K-12 schools' spring breaks. Usually, keeping our spring break linked to Easter will do this. The past two years have been anomalies due to SL Coastal aligning their spring break with Cal Poly (which they are not doing next year) and a very late Easter this year. This year was an unusual situation, not the norm."

"Place it BEFORE the Easter Sunday like the rest of the school districts to allow those with children a break with their kids."

"A quick search turned up that both Lucia Mar and San Luis Coastal school districts have their break in 2015 during the first full week in April. I would strongly encourage the Calendar Committee to always consider the K-12 school break in determining the location of our break for the sake of both our employees AND our students with children. I think this information should have been included in the rationale for detaching spring break from Easter...it could very well affect the outcome of this survey. I would be HUGELY in favor of eliminating Spring Break entirely in favor of spreading several breaks throughout the semester, as naturally occurs in the fall semester."

"Do not tie it to a specific month! Just calculate half way through and provide a much needed break. I'd rather see spring break at the middle of the semester than tied to Easter."

"I would like to align with either CalPoly or with Lucia Mar school district. We should align with one of them..."

"The middle of the semester is when students and faculty need spring break. Coordinating the break with Easter means it often too late to be helpful"

"Childcare for children of faculty in San Luis coastal."

"my daughter's bsspring break is also driven by the Easter holiday and is the only time our family can have the same week off together."

"I want to have the week after Easter off as is traditional. It's also traditional to have Christmas off and I don't want either to be done with."

"Any time in the middle of the semester (week 9 or 10) would be better than the crazy way we do it now."

"I like the idea of conisistently doing the 10th week of the semester. I was a little confused about the "first full week of April" as that would have been week 12 this year."

"I think it should be the 10th week every Spring. Anything later is counter-productive for students. Only other consideration is Spring Break for K-12 dependents. Committee has made some very poor choices for Spring Break and this year's was one of the worst."

"With so much variety in timing of local school's spring breaks, it's impossible to coordinate our break with that of the local schools. Because of this, we should do the right thing for students' education and choose a time that is in the middle of the semester."

"Spring break should coincide with the Easter holiday."

"I want the district to work with the County office of education to see if a county-wide standard can be adopted for spring break among all K-14 schools, adn possibly Cal Poly. This would put spring break around the 9th week of instruction for us, about the same time you are proposing."

"I am in favor of moving spring break to early in April; I agree with the reasoning that you have provided."

Background:
The District Calendar Committee would like to gauge faculty approval on moving mandatory flex days that occur in the middle of a semester to the week before the start of each semester for academic years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

Motivation:
  • Shortens the length of instructional portion of each semester without affecting instruction time, possibly improving student retention.
  • Avoids adversely affecting particular instructional weekdays currently used more than others for flex days (e.g., Fridays).
Proposal:
Are you in favor of moving in-semester flex days to the week before the start of each semester?

Yes.  *********************** [30%, 23 votes]
 
No.  **************************************** [52%; 40 votes]
 
No opinion/not sure.  ************** [18%; 14 votes]

The following are all of the optional comments to this question, verbatim and unedited.
"I would like Wednesday before Thanksgiving to be a Flex day so students travelling to see family would have the time to do this and Cuesta would still comply with the three work days per week. The rest of the Flex days could be moved to before the start of each semster."

"I would like to see a Fall Break during the Thanksgiving week as it is the most dangerous travel week of the years and I feel we should allow our students an opportunity to avoid traveling the Wednesday before Thanksgiving."

"The week before the start of each semester is an important and busy registration time for counseling faculty."

"Counselors are needed during the week before the start of each semester so this means we would be unable to flex."

"Creates too many challenges for programs that have mandated hours - means the semester would have to start flex week."

"I am always ready for a break in October which is the middle of the semester. It also allows me a chance to attend a conference at a time when it won't be so impacted. I am always back to school early each semester to get ready, so if flex was then I would not benefit."

"Your committee absolutely needs to figure out a way to make the day before Thanksgiving a holiday. Living in San Luis Obispo County, Cuesta College has a lot of students who travel for Thanksgiving. A responsible student may need to attend their Wednesday evening class and then drive a long distance right after. So, it's just a matter of time before we see our first accident/fatality from a college that doesn’t seem too concerned about this safety issue. As members of the District Calendar Committee, you will be partially responsible when such a Thanksgiving Eve event occurs."

"I need clarification/information regarding what the calendar would look like. For example, when would classes begin in fall/spring. When exactly would the flex days occur? How much would the regular semester be shortened?"

"I like the mid-October break that we currently have."

"We NEED that break in October. If we drop those we won't have a break for 10 weeks from Labor Day to Veteran's Day, It's too long for the students and too long for us. I think it's a mistake to move those to the beginning of the term. It leaves us with no relief during Fall term. Please don't do this."

"I would like to go to a 16 week or less semester."

"I'm concerned with the 'possibly improving student retention' comment. It doesn't make sense to make changes based on a non-fact like that. More should be done to ascertain more concretely what impacts these changes could have."

"Flex days in the middle of the semester disrupt student learning with extra days off."

"I would leave the October flex days as they are now; however move the May flex days to the beginning of the Spring semester."

"Just make the calendar 16 weeks and don't play 'place me' games with flex days to appease everyone."

"If we are going to stay with an 18 or 17 week calendar, I want flex breaks from the classroom."

"Having breaks scattered throughout the semester is very helpful to reducing student fatigue. Having 6 - 7 week periods of time with no breaks in them is difficult for students who take classes daily or most days of the week which is the case for almost all of our upper level STEM students (who have the most challenging schedules by far of any other group in the college)."

"Shorten the semester by any means necessary!"

"During the actual semester, there are only 3 flex days in Fall semesters and 0 flex days in Spring semesters. This proposal won't change the instruction time in spring and will only shorten 1 week in fall. This is not worth the trouble. We need to move to a standard length semester and not keep the extended semester we now have. Research on success and retention show this to be helpful for students."

"Please give sample dates."

"Students and faculty welcome this in-semester break."

"This change would affect our clinical days for nursing students. Clinical is 90% of my work load. Clinical faculty do 9 hours clinical days so shortening the semester is not an option. Flex days are supposed to be for professional development. Moving them to the beginning of the semester just makes them additional holidays."

"We need the break (flex days) in the fall--when classes are full, and my grading load is overwhelming!"

"Although I voted no, I would be OK with moving one (or possibly two) FLEX days before the semester, but I'd like to see a little something mid semester. I used to love the old atmosphere on campus when we actually DID professional development together on campus in October. Also, a short mid semester break helps rejuvinate students."

"Depending on other breaks may not be good. With long semesters students/faculty benefit from those breaks. I would be in favor of moving the Spring ones to the beginning if the week-long break was around Week 10. I'd say keep at least one in the mid part of Fall unless there's another holiday in Oct."

"YES, YES YES!!!! Please limit days off during the semester to keep equity of class time between different sections of the same course. Mondays and Fridays get so many more days off than middle days of the week. Indeed, MWF sections usually have an entire week less class time compared to TR sections because of Flex days and holidays."

"I have no reservations whatsoever! It is a GREAT idea, ESPECIALLY if we can we start the fall term a week later."

"I like the break in the middle of fall term"

"we'll need more flex programming."

"I oppose moving the fall flex days. I have taught at Cuesta since 1996, full-time since 1999, and have always liked having the time to either attend flex activities or to grade essays. Sometimes I do both. I find that because there are a few well-placed breaks during fall semester, it never seems as daunting psychologically as spring term."

Education research: MPEX pre- and post-instruction results (Cuesta College, spring semester 2014)

The Maryland Physics Expectations survey (MPEX, Redish, Saul, and Steinberg, 1998) was administered to Cuesta College Physics 205B (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 205B spring semester 2014 sections 30882, 30883
San Luis Obispo, CA campus
(N = 33, matched pairs only, excluding negative informed consent form responses)

Percentage of (favorable:unfavorable) responses
Overall   Independence   Coherence   Concepts   Reality link   Math link   Effort   
Initial   56:2142:2050:2650:2277:0452:2570:16
Final   55:2352:1848:2956:2273:1356:1856:20

Of note this semester is the positive shift in independence (belief in active process of understanding). Nearly all previous semesters of MPEX results for this course have shown negative shifts in this category. This semester had an increased emphasis on the flipped classroom format (with "just-in-time teaching" online reading assignments), and in-class group problem-solving worksheets ("lecture-tutorials), in addition to the somewhat de-emphasized use of flashcards ("peer instruction") as compared to previous semesters.

Previous posts:

20140529

Kudos: now I get Piet Hein

Poem displayed on the overhead digital projector during the final exam:
"The road to wisdom? -- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
            Err
            and err
            and err again
            but less
            and less
            and less."
      --Piet Hein, "The Road to Wisdom," Grooks (1966)

"Now I Get It," by Student 5613
Physics 205B
May 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Kudos: because of the way you instructed it

"Because of the Way You Instructed It," by Student 7810
Physics 205B
May 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Physics final exam question: optical fiber core vs. cladding

Physics 205B Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 2/e, Problem 23.25, Comprehensive Problem 23.93

An undergraduate physics project describes the total internal reflection that occurs in the core and cladding of optical fibers:
Light is trapped in an inner transparent solid core wrapped with a second material (cladding) of higher index of refraction[*].
Discuss why this statement comparing the core and cladding indices of refraction is incorrect. Explain your reasoning using the properties of light and refraction.

[*]D. D. Diba, "Optical Photonic Bandgap Fibers," May 11, 2010, Department of Physics, Umeå University, Sweden, tp.umu.se/advmat/FinalProjects/Photonic%20Bandgap%20Fibers.pdf.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. If the incident ray (in the core) is in the lower refraction index material than the higher refraction index cladding, then there cannot be total internal reflection, as the critical angle (which the incident angle would need to be less than) would be undefined. Demonstrates this using Snell's law and/or the critical angle equation.
  • r:
    As (p), but argument indirectly, weakly, or only by definition supports the statement to be proven, or has minor inconsistencies or loopholes.
  • t:
    Nearly correct, but argument has conceptual errors, or is incomplete. Recognizes that total internal reflection cannot occur with a lower refraction index core and higher refraction index cladding, but does not substantiate this claim.
  • v:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner. Some attempt at using Snell's law, critical angle, and or total internal reflection concepts.
  • x:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Sections 30882, 30883
Exam code: finalEL7a
p: 9 students
r: 7 students
t: 5 students
v: 7 students
x: 2 student
y: 2 students
z: 0 students

A sample "p" response (from student 6893):

Physics final exam question: shifting interfering transmitters

Physics 205B Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 2/e, Problem 25.1

A radio antenna receives a constructive interference signal from two transmitters that broadcast in phase at the same wavelength. Discuss why the radio antenna will still receive a constructive interference signal if one transmitter were moved one-half of a wavelength closer to the radio antenna, while the other transmitter was moved one-half of a wavelength farther from the radio antenna. Explain your reasoning by using the properties of waves and interference.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. Shows either by a diagram or explicit demonstration of how Δl = |l1 - l2| is a whole number of wavelengths (where l1' = l1 + λ/2 and l2' = l2 - λ/2 results in Δl' still being equal to a whole number of wavelengths) that constructive interference still results.
  • r:
    As (p), but argument indirectly, weakly, or only by definition supports the statement to be proven, or has minor inconsistencies or loopholes.
  • t:
    Nearly correct, but argument has conceptual errors, or is incomplete.
  • v:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner. Some attempt at using interference, phase/path lengths differences.
  • x:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Sections 30882, 30883
Exam code: finalEL7a
p: 20 students
r: 3 students
t: 7 students
v: 4 students
x: 1 student
y: 0 students
z: 0 students

A sample "p" response (from student 0001), using the path-length difference equation:

Another sample "p" response (from student 0007), using a diagram:

Another sample "p" response (from student 7810), using both the path-length difference equation and a diagram:

Physics final exam question: direction of induced current

Physics 205B Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 2/e, Problem 20.27

The current in a circular loop is decreasing over time. A square metal loop (with a resistance R) is located alongside the circular loop. Discuss why the direction of the induced current in the square metal loop is clockwise. Explain your reasoning using the properties of magnetic fields, magnetic flux, Faraday's law and Lenz's law.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. Uses (1) right-hand rules to determine that magnetic flux caused by the circular loop is directed into the page through the square loop; discusses (2) how decreasing current in the circular loop then creates decreasing magnitude flux that points into the page through the square loop; and concludes (3) from Faraday's and Lenz's laws that the changing flux induces a current in the square loop that will supplement the decreasing magnitude flux that points into the page, and thus be clockwise.
  • r:
    As (p), but argument indirectly, weakly, or only by definition supports the statement to be proven, or has minor inconsistencies or loopholes.
  • t:
    Nearly correct, but argument has conceptual errors, or is incomplete.
  • v:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner. Some attempt at using right-hand rules, magnetic fields, forces, currents, flux, Faraday's (and Lenz's) law, induced emf and induced current.
  • x:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Sections 30882, 30883
Exam code: finalEL7a
p: 13 students
r: 4 students
t: 8 students
v: 5 students
x: 5 students
y: 0 students
z: 0 students

A sample "p" response (from student 0115):

A sample "x" response (from student 4297), with at least some rudimentary representation of Lenz's law:

Physics final exam question: manipulating Feynman diagram paths

Physics 205B Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

This (valid) Feynman diagram depicts electron capture. Demonstrate how the paths on this diagram can be manipulated to depict β+ decay. (Ignore the direction of the interaction particle, but all other particle paths must have the correct directions and labels.) Explain your reasoning using the properties of Feynman diagrams, particles and antiparticles, and interactions.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. Demonstrates how left-to-right path of electron entering the vertex can be draw exiting the vertex, but with a right-to-left arrow direction, representing a positron (a "β+" particle) as a decay particle, along with a neutrino, as a proton converts into a neutron.
  • r:
    As (p), but argument indirectly, weakly, or only by definition supports the statement to be proven, or has minor inconsistencies or loopholes. Error in keeping direction of electron/positron path consistent as it is flipped, making the vertex invalid, but understands that beta-plus decay process has only proton decaying into byproducts (as opposed to a proton-to-neutron conversion by antineutrino bombardment).
  • t:
    Nearly correct, but argument has conceptual errors, or is incomplete. At least some attempt at showing a positron-out process, despite drawing invalid Feynman diagrams and/or neutrino/antineutrino bombardment of a nucleon by path/direction manipulation of given electron capture Feynman diagram.
  • v:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner. Some use of Feynman diagrams or some other attempt, but no positron output.
  • x:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Sections 30882, 30883
Exam code: finalEL7a
p: 3 students
r: 3 students
t: 6 students
v: 16 students
x: 5 students
y: 1 student
z: 1 student

A sample "p" response (from student 1208):

A sample "r" response (from student 7810), with an invalid vertex due to the wrong electron path direction:

A sample "t" response (from student 6644), at least showing a valid Feynman diagram with an exiting positron path, but with an incoming antineutrino path, and a strange antineutron-to-antiproton conversion:

A sample "v" response (from student 5555):

Another sample "v" response (from student 0008):

Physics final exam problem: ranking light bulb brightnesses

Physics 205B Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 2/e, Problems 18.41, 18.65

Two identical light bulbs (R1 = R2 = 5.0 Ω), a third light bulb (r = 1.0 Ω), and an ideal 15 V emf source are connected as shown in the diagram at right. Rank the brightness of these light bulbs, from dimmest to brightest. Indicate ties, if any. Show you work and explain your reasoning using Kirchhoff's rules, Ohm's law, and electric power.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. Uses either a (1) quantitative or (2) qualitative argument to rank the light bulbs in increasing brightness: P2 < Pr < P1.
    1. Finds (a) the equivalent resistance of the circuit to determine (b) the current flowing through R1 (and the power P1), (c) applies Kirchhoff's loop rule to determine the voltage used by R1 to determine the voltage used by either r or R2 which can be used to find Pr and P2.
    2. Discusses how (a) P2 < P1 because due to Kirchhoff's junction rule, bulb R1 will have more current than bulb R2, and as they have the same resistance, from P = I2·R, P2 < P1; and (b) similarly bulb r will have less current than bulb R1, and with less resistance than R1, Pr < P1; and (c) from Kirchhoff's loop rule, r and R2 will have the same potential difference ΔV, and since r < R1, then from P = (ΔV)2/R, Pr > P_2, such that P2 < Pr < P1.
  • r:
    Nearly correct, but includes minor math errors.
  • t:
    Nearly correct, but approach has conceptual errors, and/or major/compounded math errors.
  • v:
    Implementation of right ideas, but in an inconsistent, incomplete, or unorganized manner. Problematic application of equivalent resistance, Ohm's law (and/or Kirchhoff's circuit rules), and power.
  • x:
    Implementation of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Sections 30882, 30883
Exam code: finalEL7a
p: 10 students
r: 7 students
t: 11 students
v: 7 students
x: 0 students
y: 0 students
z: 0 students

A sample "p" response (from student):

20140528

Physics final exam problem: total magnetic field of two current-carrying wires

Physics 205B Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 2/e, Problems 19.61, 19.71

Two long straight wires carry currents, both outwards perpendicular to the plane of this page. The left wire (located at x = 0) carries twice as much current as the right wire (located at x = +0.20 m). The magnitude of the total magnetic field at x = +0.30 m is 8.0×10–7 T.

Determine (a) the direction of the total magnetic field at x = +0.30 m, and (b) the amount of current in the left wire (which has the greater amount of current). Show your work and explain your reasoning using the properties of magnetic fields, and superposition.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. At x = +0.30 m, the magnetic fields of each wire point upwards, so the total magnetic field there must point upwards. Then adds magnitudes of the magnetic field due to each wire at x = +0.30 m, with the constraint that I1 = 2·I2, and finds that I1 = 0.48 A.
  • r:
    Nearly correct, but includes minor math errors.
  • t:
    Nearly correct, but approach has conceptual errors, and/or major/compounded math errors. Typically sets up the difference in magnitudes of the magnetic field due to each wire at x = +0.30 m.
  • v:
    Implementation of right ideas, but in an inconsistent, incomplete, or unorganized manner. Typically has only one wire's contribution to the total magnetic field.
  • x:
    Implementation of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Sections 30882, 30883
Exam code: finalEL7a
p: 9 students
r: 3 students
t: 5 students
v: 7 students
x: 5 students
y: 5 students
z: 1 student

A sample "p" response (from student 3420):

A sample "y" response (from student 0003), already looking forward to summer break:

Physics final exam problem: plutonium-powered pacemaker

Physics 205B Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 2/e, Problem 39.37, Comprehensive Problem 29.79(a)

The energy from the α decay of (238,94)Pu has been used to power cardiac pacemakers, and these plutonium-powered pacemakers need to be properly disposed after being replaced, or removed after a patient dies.[*] In a specific case:
A patient was implanted [in 1978] with a nuclear pacemaker by staff at Lower Bucks Hospital... The pacemaker was [removed] at Nazareth Hospital on October 31, 1996, after the patient had expired... [Later] the pacemaker could not be located and was assumed lost.[**]
(238,94)Pu has a half-life of 88 years. Assume that this plutonium-powered pacemaker still has not been recovered, and is somehow functioning today. Determine the percent decrease in its power output over the past 36 years. Show your work and explain your reasoning.

[*] http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/miscellaneous/pacemaker.htm.
[**] http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/enforcement/actions/materials/ea97005.html.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. Finds activity decreases to 75% of its original value, corresponding to a decrease by 25% from its original value.
  • r:
    Nearly correct, but includes minor math errors. Finds activity decreases to 75% of its original value, but garbles the percent decrease by calculation.
  • t:
    Nearly correct, but approach has conceptual errors, and/or major/compounded math errors. Only has activity decreasing to 25% of its original value, or has calculations nearly set up to find this.
  • v:
    Implementation of right ideas, but in an inconsistent, incomplete, or unorganized manner.
  • x:
    Implementation of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Sections 30882, 30883
Exam code: finalEL7a
p: 19 students
r: 1 student
t: 4 students
v: 2 students
x: 5 students
y: 2 students
z: 2 students

A sample "p" response (from student 0618), using the given half-life of 88 years:

Another sample "p" response (from student 3420), converting half-life to decay constant, in order to use the exponential decay equation:

A sample "x" response (from student 0115), at the very least making some sort of educated guesstimate:

A sample "y" response (from student 0003), inexplicably speculating about penguins:

Astronomy final exam question: implausible/plausible absolute magnitude calculations

Astronomy 210 Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

An astronomy question on an online discussion board[*] was asked:
Cic: I'm trying to calculate the absolute magnitudes of stars. Star A has an apparent magnitude of –0.05 and a distance of 11.1 parsecs. Star B has an apparent magnitude of +0.34 and a distance of 3.4 parsecs. My absolute magnitude calculations for star A is +46 and for star B is +2.2.
Discuss why the absolute magnitude calculation for star A is wrong, and for star B is plausible, and how you know this. Explain using the relationships between apparent magnitude, absolute magnitude, and distance.

[*] Adapted from https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130319232617AAvWqb9.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p = 20/20:
    Correct. Understands difference between apparent magnitude m (brightness as seen from Earth, when placed at their actual distance from Earth) and absolute visual magnitude (MV (brightness as seen from Earth, when placed 10 parsecs away), and discusses (1) for star A, the brightness it has at its actual location (m) farther than 10 parsecs is somehow brighter than the brightness it would have at 10 parsecs away (MV), thus making these values suspect; and (2) for star B the brightness it has at its actual location (m) closer than 10 parsecs is brighter than the brightness it would have at 10 parsecs away (MV), thus making these values plausible.
  • r = 16/20:
    Nearly correct (explanation weak, unclear or only nearly complete); includes extraneous/tangential information; or has minor errors. One of the two points (1)-(2) correct, other is problematic/incomplete.
  • t = 12/20:
    Contains right ideas, but discussion is unclear/incomplete or contains major errors. Both points (1)-(2) problematic/incomplete, or one point correct while other is missing.
  • v = 8/20:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner. At least attempts to use relationships between apparent magnitudes, absolute visual magnitudes, and distances.
  • x = 4/20:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit. Discussion not based on relationships between apparent magnitudes, absolute visual magnitudes, and distances.
  • y = 2/20:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z = 0/20:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Section 30674
Exam code: finaln0oN
p: 8 students
r: 1 student
t: 5 students
v: 8 students
x: 0 students
y: 0 students
z: s students

Section 30676
Exam code: finals0N6
p: 16 students
r: 2 students
t: 5 students
v: 5 students
x: 3 students
y: 0 students
z: 3 students

A sample "p" response (from student 1133):

Astronomy final exam question: giant versus supergiant metallicity

Astronomy 210 Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

An astronomy question on an online discussion board[*] was asked and answered:
Pd: Right now, which would be more metal-rich in its outermost layers today: a giant or a supergiant?
th: The correct answer is a giant.
Discuss why this answer is incorrect, and how you know this. Explain using the properties and evolution of stars.

[*] answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20140405002159AARyDpo.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. Understands that (1) older stars are metal-poor having formed from essentially just hydrogen, while newer stars are metal-rich, having formed from hydrogen enriched with metals produced by previous generation stars; and (2) supergiants are the end-stage of massive stars, which have evolved rapidly (having short main-sequence lifetimes), such that they had formed very recently than giants (end-stage of medium-mass stars, which have longer main-sequence lifetimes), and are thus metal-rich.
  • r:
    Nearly correct (explanation weak, unclear or only nearly complete); includes extraneous/tangential information; or has minor errors. One of the two points (1)-(2) correct, other is problematic/incomplete.
  • t:
    Contains right ideas, but discussion is unclear/incomplete or contains major errors. Both points (1)-(2) problematic/incomplete, or one point correct while other is missing.
  • v:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner. Garbled discussion of properties and evolution of stars, such as breaking down of metals; masses and evolution rates.
  • x:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit. Discusses factors other than relevant to Hubble's law, redshifts/recession velocities, expansion of space, big bang, etc. Discussion not based on metallicity and evolution rates of stars.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Section 30674
Exam code: finaln0oN
p: 5 students
r: 1 student
t: 9 students
v: 8 students
x: 1 student
y: 0 students
z: 0 students

Section 30676
Exam code: finals0N6
p: 5 students
r: 2 students
t: 16 students
v: 7 students
x: 1 student
y: 1 student
z: 2 students

A sample "p" response (from student 0923):

Another sample "p" response (from student 6288), using the "house party" analogy of stellar evolution rates:

A sample "t" response (from student 1920), only explaining how giants are younger than supergiants:

Another sample "t" response (from student 6124), only explaining how younger stars inherit the metals from previous-generation stars that have gone supernovae:

Astronomy final exam question: why universe has no center?

Astronomy 210 Final Exam, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

An astronomy question on an online discussion board[*] was asked and answered:
?: Why does the universe have no center?
im: According to the big bang theory everything in the universe is moving away from each other, therefore there is no one "center."
cr: If the big bang theory is correct, the universe does have a center. We just don't know where it is, and it may not be within the observable universe.
Discuss which answer is correct, and how you know this. Explain using observations and evidence related to the Hubble law.

[*] Adapted from https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=1006041908256.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p = 20/20:
    Correct. Hubble's law is (1) that the recession velocity of galaxies is proportional to distance, evidence is that there is a greater redshift of absorption lines for distant galaxies compared to nearby galaxies. This corresponds to the expansion of space between galaxies, such that (2) each galaxy seems to be center of expansion as observed from their position. May use analogies as not-like-an-explosion, raisin bread, enlargement of between-spaces, etc.
  • r = 16/20:
    Nearly correct (explanation weak, unclear or only nearly complete); includes extraneous/tangential information; or has minor errors. One of the two points (1)-(2) correct, other is problematic/incomplete.
  • t = 12/20:
    Contains right ideas, but discussion is unclear/incomplete or contains major errors. Both points (1)-(2) problematic/incomplete, or one point correct while other is missing.
  • v = 8/20:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner.
  • x = 4/20:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit. Discusses factors other than relevant to Hubble's law, redshifts/recession velocities, expansion of space, big bang, etc.
  • y = 2/20:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z = 0/20:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Section 30674
Exam code: finaln0oN
p: 3 students
r: 4 students
t: 15 students
v: 1 student
x: 1 student
y: 0 students
z: 0 students

Section 30676
Exam code: finals0N6
p: 6 students
r: 4 students
t: 10 students
v: 6 students
x: 2 students
y: 3 students
z: 3 students

A sample "p" response (from student 4380):

20140527

Online reading assignment question: advice to future students

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2014
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. The following question was asked after the last lecture, but prior to the final exam.

Tell a student who is about to take this course next semester what he/she needs to know or to do in order to succeed in this course. (Graded for completion.)

The following are all of the student responses to this question, verbatim and unedited.
"Attend every class and participate. Don't buy the book. It's a waste. Read the sections in the library before class."

"Just to pay attention. This course is fun and quite challenging but if you just pay attention and do what you're supposed to do, you'll succeed!"

"I strongly agree to do your reading at home before class because it helps. If you do this you won't be so lost in class."

"Do the reading assignments!"

"Remember to do the reading assignments!"

"Reach out to other classmates and form study groups. I found them very helpful."

"Just the basic the course will cover every important aspect."

"You should definitely use all resources given to you and take pictures of the in class activities to study from. Also pay attention in class and try to utilize the time to understand the material."

"Don't be shy when working in groups. I found that is when I did most of my learning; explaining concepts to each other during in class assignments. There are also a lot of really easy points so stay on top of doing reading assignments and show up to class. Attendance makes a big difference. Don't forget to do the online reading assignments!"

"It's pretty simple - come to class! The one week where I felt lost was one where I didn't come to class."

"Do the reading"

"Study like no other. Flash card questions are your friend and don't be afraid to email your professor."

"YOU MUST READ THE BOOK BEFORE YOUR NEXT CLASS! Trust me."

"Have internet, read, and be ready for group work! :)"

"Show up to class! and do all the extra credit even if you don't think you'll need to!"

"Read the astro book and be very active in the classroom, you meet really cool people and they can help you out when you're lost."

"Either bring your own copy of or take pictures of the in-class activities, they help greatly with studying for tests."

"Always always always utilize the online material (flashcard questions, past tests etc) and don't forget to do the surveys!"

"The most important thing to do to succeed is keep up. Go to all the classes and set aside time every week to study and do the assessments outside of class."

"Do the reading and the flash cards! But not last second... Leave time to address the concepts you don't understand and take those questions to office hours if necessary!"

"Study the previous semesters quizzes and email your answers to P-Dog of the flash card questions!!!!"

"To succeed in Astronomy one should take the necessary time to ask questions on whatever may be confusing as there are many ways and many possibilities of answers in regards to topics presented in the course."

"Study study study! My grades improved a lot from reviewing the material."

"Do the reading."

"For this this course you need to make sure you are in class, do the class activities and when your at home do the pre lab readings it will help you a great deal when trying to pass this course. Also respect P-dog!!"

"GO TO CLASS! i think i missed one class in the begining of the semester and it totally threw me off for the rest of the semester. i felt like i was always one step behind. Its not Hard, just go to class!"

"Smoke weed before class. It gets really trippy"

"For someone to succeed in this class, just make sure to study the flash card questions! Also, I would recommend doing the reading! This class was overall an easy A!"

"Go to class! I definitely learned the material through lectures and in class activities."

"Well really self explanatory stuff its really important to do all your reading assignments and don't fall behind. I've never taken a course where you learn everything before class so extensively and I think that is a really cool way to teach. So defenatly understand how to use the technique learned at the beginning of class regarding how to study."

"Go to class, and do your readings. Other than that just have fun and learn"

Education research: SASS, SPCI and student learning outcomes assessment (Cuesta College, spring semester 2014)

Student achievement of course learning outcomes are assessed by administering an Student Assessment of Skills Survey (SASS), a five-point Likert scale questionnaire (Patrick M. Len, in development), and the Star Properties Concept Inventory (SPCI, Janelle M. Bailey, "Development of a Concept Inventory to Assess Students' Understanding and Reasoning Difficulties about the Properties and Formation of Stars," Astronomy Education Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 133–139, August 2007) to Astronomy 210 students at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA. This is a one-semester, introductory astronomy course (with an optional adjunct laboratory), and is taken primarily by students to satisfy their general education science transfer requirement.

The SASS is administered online during the last week of instruction, to be completed before the final exam. The SPCI is administered in class during the last week of instruction.

The SASS results from this semester are compiled below. Values for the mean and standard deviations are given next to the modal response category for each question. Also listed is the percentage of students who have self-assessed themselves as having successfully achieving a learning outcome (responding "average," "above average," or "excellent") as opposed to not achieving success with a learning outcome (responding "very poor" or "below average").

Cuesta College
Student Assessment of Skills Survey (SASS)
Astronomy 210 spring semester 2014 sections 30674, 30676
N = 52
The questions below are designed to characterize your achievement of each of the learning outcomes by filling in a bubble on the rating scale provided to the right of each statement.

Mark the level of achievement that best describes your learning at the completion of the course.

1. Predict positions and cycles of stars, using a starwheel.
(Achieved: 98%, unachieved: 2%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  [0]
Average.  *************** [15]
Above average.  ************************ [24]
Excellent.  ************ [12]

2. Explain sun cycles and seasons.
(Achieved: 100%, unachieved: 0%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  [0]
Average.  ********************** [22]
Above average.  ********************* [21]
Excellent.  ********* [9]

3. Explain and predict lunar phases and times.
(Achieved: 92%, unachieved: 8%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ***************** [17]
Above average.  **************** [16]
Excellent.  *************** [15]

4. Relate planets in the sky to a solar system map.
(Achieved: 83%, unachieved: 17%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ******** [8]
Average.  ******************* [19]
Above average.  ****************** [18]
Excellent.  ****** [6]

5. Explain differences between models of planetary motion.
(Achieved: 92%, unachieved: 8%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ******************************* [31]
Above average.  ************* [13]
Excellent.  **** [4]

6. Explain evidence for the heliocentric model of planetary motion.
(Achieved: 83%, unachieved: 17%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ********* [9]
Average.  ************************* [25]
Above average.  ************* [13]
Excellent.  ***** [5]

7. Describe how optical telescopes work.
(Achieved: 88%, unachieved: 12%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ****** [6]
Average.  ************************** [26]
Above average.  **************** [16]
Excellent.  **** [4]

8. Describe different powers of optical telescopes.
(Achieved: 87%, unachieved: 13%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  *********************** [23]
Above average.  *************** [15]
Excellent.  ******* [7]

9. Explain which telescopes should be funded based on relevant criteria.
(Achieved: 92%, unachieved: 8%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ***************** [17]
Above average.  ****************** [18]
Excellent.  ************* [13]

10. Explain how stars produce energy.
(Achieved: 92%, unachieved: 8%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ******************* [19]
Above average.  ********************* [21]
Excellent.  ******** [8]

11. Explain the relationship between star brightness and distances.
(Achieved: 96%, unachieved: 4%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ** [2]
Average.  ************ [12]
Above average.  *************************** [27]
Excellent.  *********** [11]

12. Predict the size of a star based on brightness and temperature.
(Achieved: 96%, unachieved: 4%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ** [2]
Average.  ***************** [17]
Above average.  ************************ [24]
Excellent.  ********* [9]

13. Explain different stages a star will go through, based on its mass.
(Achieved: 94%, unachieved: 6%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  *** [3]
Average.  ******************** [20]
Above average.  ******************** [20]
Excellent.  ********* [9]

14. Explain evidence for the shape/size/composition of our Milky Way galaxy.
(Achieved: 83%, unachieved: 17%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ******** [8]
Average.  ***************************** [29]
Above average.  ************ [12]
Excellent.  ** [2]

15. Explain evidence for how our Milky Way galaxy came to be.
(Achieved: 77%, unachieved: 23%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ************ [12]
Average.  *************************** [27]
Above average.  ************ [12]
Excellent.  * [1]

16. Explain how the speed of light affects observations of distant objects.
(Achieved: 88%, unachieved: 12%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ****** [6]
Average.  ************************ [24]
Above average.  ***************** [17]
Excellent.  ***** [5]

17. Explain evidence for the expansion of the universe.
(Achieved: 85%, unachieved: 15%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  *************************** [27]
Above average.  ************** [14]
Excellent.  *** [3]

18. Describe characteristics of the universe a long time ago.
(Achieved: 81%, unachieved: 19%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ********* [9]
Average.  ************************ [24]
Above average.  ************* [13]
Excellent.  ***** [5]

19. Explain evidence for how our solar system came to be.
(Achieved: 85%, unachieved: 15%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ******* [7]
Average.  ************************** [26]
Above average.  ************** [14]
Excellent.  **** [4]

20. Describe key features of terrestrial planets.
(Achieved: 96%, unachieved: 4%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  ** [2]
Average.  ******************** [20]
Above average.  ************************ [24]
Excellent.  ****** [6]

21. Describe key features of jovian planets.
(Achieved: 90%, unachieved: 10%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  **** [4]
Average.  ********************** [22]
Above average.  ********************** [22]
Excellent.  *** [3]

22. Explain why Pluto is not currently categorized as a planet.
(Achieved: 98%, unachieved: 2%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  [0]
Average.  ********* [9]
Above average.  ************************ [24]
Excellent.  ****************** [18]

23. Describe plausible requirements for life.
(Achieved: 98%, unachieved: 2%)
Very poor.  [0]
Below average.  * [1]
Average.  **************** [16]
Above average.  ************************** [26]
Excellent.  ********* [9]

24. Explain difficulties in investigating the possibility for extraterrestial life.
(Achieved: 81%, unachieved: 19%)
Very poor.  * [1]
Below average.  ********* [9]
Average.  **************** [16]
Above average.  ***************** [17]
Excellent.  ********* [9]

Of the 24 student learning outcomes in the SASS, 18 were self-reported as being achieved by at least 85% of students, listed below in order of decreasing success:
2. Explain sun cycles and seasons. (100%)
1. Predict positions and cycles of stars, using a starwheel. (98%)
23. Describe plausible requirements for life. (98%)
22. Explain why Pluto is not currently categorized as a planet. (98%)
20. Describe key features of terrestrial planets. (96%)
11. Explain the relationship between star brightness and distances. (96%)
12. Predict the size of a star based on brightness and temperature. (96%)
13. Explain different stages a star will go through, based on its mass. (94%)
3. Explain and predict lunar phases and times. (92%)
5. Explain differences between models of planetary motion. (92%)
9. Explain which telescopes should be funded based on relevant criteria. (92%)
10. Explain how stars produce energy. (92%)
21. Describe key features of jovian planets. (90%)
7. Describe how optical telescopes work. (88%)
16. Explain how the speed of light affects observations of distant objects. (88%)
8. Describe different powers of optical telescopes. (87%)
17. Explain evidence for the expansion of the universe. (85%)
19. Explain evidence for how our solar system came to be. (85%)

However, six student learning outcomes were self-reported as being achieved by less than 85% of students, listed below in order of decreasing success:
4. Relate planets in the sky to a solar system map. (83%)
6. Explain evidence for the heliocentric model of planetary motion. (83%)
14. Explain evidence for the shape/size/composition of our Milky Way galaxy. (83%)
18. Describe characteristics of the universe a long time ago. (81%)
24. Explain difficulties in investigating the possibility for extraterrestial life. (81%)
15. Explain evidence for how our Milky Way galaxy came to be. (77%)

Compare these student learning outcomes self-reported as not being achieved (4, 6, 14, 15, 18, 24) those from a previous semesters (fall semester 2013: (6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 18); spring semester 2012: (6, 18); fall semester 2011: (4, 7, 8)).

Student learning outcomes 10, 11, 12, and 13 for Cuesta College students were directly assessed using the Star Properties Concept Inventory (excluding negative informed consent form responses):
Star Properties Concept Inventory v3.0
Astronomy 210 spring semester 2014 sections 30674, 30676
N = 55
ave ± stdev = 55% ± 16%
This semester's SPCI scores are comparable to results from 1,100 large research university students that have completed introductory astronomy and earth sciences courses (Bailey, 2007), where the average was 51% (no further statistics provided); and also comparable to SPCI results from earlier semesters at Cuesta College.

As per the ACCJC (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges), results from this indirect assessment SASS tool, along with the direct assessment SPCI tool will be used for course/program improvement by increasing emphasis on these lowest three learning outcomes in instruction in future semesters.

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