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Re: [Phys-l] physics assessment

The Lawson test of scientific thinking is one of the best pretests you can
use. It correlates fairly well with the ability to achieve gain on the FCI.

John M. Clement
Houston, TX

I teach at a private high school, and we have three levels of physics:
regular, honors, and AP. Most of the students are juniors and seniors, but
we also have a few freshmen. In recent years more kids are signing up for
honors physics. Many can handle it, but some either want more of a
challenge or want "honors" on their transcript.

We would like to come up with some sort of "pre-test" to act as a filter
to give us some sort of indication of which course might be best for them,
or what "skills" are needed for honors vs regular. We don't want kids to
be in honors and then feel overwhelmed after the first few weeks. Getting
into another course can mess with their schedules or be impossible to do.
Do other teachers have these issues?

The math part of a pre-test is relatively easy. I can test their
algebra/trig skills. However, most physics problems are word problems, and
these questions are harder to design since the students enrolling would
have no formal training in the subject. We also teach concepts, so I am
also looking for some good multiple choice questions that would assess
their knowledge of the world coming into the course. In theory we would
then have some sort of "cutoff" score/grade to separate the kids into two
groups for the two courses.

I am wondering if any of you do this sort of thing, even at the college
level. Physics involves a different way of thinking. Many concepts are
counterintuitive. Students have different math backgrounds/abilities. And
there is the whole idea of the language we use (speed and velocity, energy
and momentum, temperature and heat, etc.). It's also difficult to predict
how students will do in a physics course, but we are hoping a pre-test can
provide some answers for "borderline" students.

I would appreciate any ideas/websites from teachers who may have these
sorts of tests already available.