Physics communication and peer assessment in a reformed introductory mechanics classroom

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Douglas, Scott S.
Schatz, Michael F.
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We designed and implemented a set of introductory mechanics laboratory exercises featuring real-world data-gathering, computational modeling, and video lab reports with peer assessment. Our goal in developing a peer assessment system was to create a valid substitute for instructor grading which could operate at scale, and to achieve learning goals related to student scientific communication and critique. We found our peer assessment system to be an adequate replacement for instructor grading of these lab report videos, and discovered that students learned to produce more expert-like assessments as the semester progressed, as demonstrated by a substantial rise in student-expert rating agreement. Further investigation showed that this improvement in accuracy was related, at least in part, to the completeness (but not necessarily the correctness) of students' explanations of physics phenomena in their lab report videos. At the beginning of the semester, this completeness had no effect on the ratings which students would give each others' videos; at the end of the semester, explanation completeness was strongly correlated with lower student ratings. This correspondence between salutary communicative practices and peer assessment behavior indicates that our introduction of peer assessment was indeed effective at achieving communication-oriented learning goals. Students' retrospective accounts of their experiences with peer assessment also produced some themes and trends that seemed to be corroborated in our quantitative research. All this work together, both quantitative and qualitative, will serve as a basis for continued research into modeling student engagement with peer assessment in the introductory physics classroom.
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