Random Collection of Observations

Last year, on the first physics exam, I had about 65% of students answer correctly when asked about the sign and direction of the acceleration for an object in free-fall, both on the way up and the way down. (**B****ig Big** correction: Last semester, only 30% of my students answered both correctly. 65% last semester gave either both correct OR incorrect in a way that implied negative acceleration meant slowing down.)…

This year, one of my standards specifically addressed this, and there are no surprises. This year, with very similar questions, 93% of my students got the two questions correct. The students who didn’t get it right, chose not to re-assess after an initial unsuccessful attempt.

So those two questions were very similar to the standard. A harder and less similar question was about making sense of what an acceleration of – 2.7 m/s/s tells us. Students had to choose a correct statement about the motion from a list of option. The right answer to choose was that there is *not* enough information to tell whether its speeding up or slowing down. On this question, 70% of the students got that answer correct, with the two most common wrong answers being that it’s slowing down and that it’s moving at constant speed.

Looking to the open-ended problem with free-fall, 100% of students chose the correct direction for the acceleration due to gravity in the problem and 0% of students tried to solve for acceleration as if it were unknown in free-fall. I don’t know exactly how many students did this last year, but it was significant enough for me to notice.

On another note, I did not have any standards for interpreting graphs, and students did poorly on a simple question about a position vs. time graph. Many of them, I suspect, were simply remembering an answer from a practice test where it was a velocity vs time graph. It was the same question about where does the object change direction.

**Most recent update:**

The sign for acceleration due to gravity on the way up and down: 93% vs. class average of 66%

Whether negative acceleration means slowing down: 70% vs. class average of 42%

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Brian,

Are you standards posted somewhere?

https://teachbrianteach.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/baby-sbg-jump/

There’s link to the original draft. Big difference is I now only have 2 standards per section instead of 3… I’ll try to make a follow up post with the corrected standards.