Peer learning and concept test, Formative assessment a learning opportunity
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The experiences and conceptions about the physical world that students bring into the classroom may support or inhibit them in gaining an understanding congruent with the physical theories. This is relevant for classical mechanics generally, and Newton’s laws specifically. Students’ preconceptions can therefore represent a threshold for learning. To address this and get a picture of the students’ understanding, they are individually asked to make a drawing of the forces acting on a moving object, provided some initial information. Then, they are given multiple-choice answers based on typical misconceptions. The students choose one of these alternatives by voting with a student-response-system. They also indicate whether they have doubts regarding their answer. After voting, the teacher provides a few comments and gives hints if necessary. The students subsequently discuss the problem in groups, and thereby learn from their peers. Our results show that even though students indicate few or no doubts regarding their answers to force concept questions, they show signs to hold misconceptions about Newton’s laws. Following a group discussion, a second voting in most cases indicates that misinterpretations have been addressed and resolved. In addition to the exercises and the discussion with peers, the students write a short reflection on how the discussion went and how it affected their understanding, in order to utilise the potential of formative assessment.