Internal Reports

Hints Really Help!  PDF
Rasil Warnakulasooriya & David E. Pritchard

We study the usefulness of hints in learning physics using myCyberTutor (aka: Mastering Physics), a web-based homework tutor. About 48% of the students request hints on average to a given problem with an average of one hint request per wrong answer submitted. Administering related problem pairs to two equally skilled groups in different orders we find that the group which solves a problem in a given problem-pair second requests on average 12% fewer hints than the group which solves it first. The maximum reduction (19%) in requests for hints occurs for a problem after solving its related tutorial problem. These results support the cognitive theory that feedback is a form of information that helps students in learning.

Effectiveness of Tutorials in Web-based Physics Tutor  PDF
Elsa-Sofia Morote, Rasil Warnakulasooriya & David E. Pritchard

We study two pedagogies using myCyberTutor, a web-based homework tutor. Two groups, tutorial-first (TF) and problem-first (PF), taking introductory mechanics solve a tutorial and a related problem pair. The TF group solves the tutorial problem before solving the related problem(s) while the PF group solves the related problem first. The TF group has significantly less difficulty on the related problem(s) and completes them more quickly than the PF group. The PF group shows a smaller reduction in the difficulty they have with the self assessment questions in the tutorial. The reduction in difficulty of the TF group on the related problem is twice as much per unit of time spent on the tutorial as is the corresponding reduction in difficulty experienced by the PF group. We conclude that schema acquisition is better facilitated by the tutorial-first approach.

What course elements correlate with improvement on tests in introductory Newtonian mechanics  PDF
Elsa-Sofia Morote & David E. Pritchard

We study the effectiveness of various instructional course elements (electronic and written homework, collaborative group problems, and class participation) in an MIT calculus-based introductory Newtonian mechanics course. We measure effectiveness by the correlation coefficient between a student’s score on a particular course element and the gain of that student’s grade on assessment instruments. These instruments were the MIT final exam and two widely used standard physics tests that emphasize conceptual knowledge: the Force Concept Inventory and the Mechanics Baseline Tests. The results show that interactive course elements have significantly higher correlation with increased assessment scores: interactive electronic homework administered by myCyberTutor correlate significantly with gain on the final exam, and that myCyberTutor and collaborative group problem solving correlate most strongly with gain on the more conceptual tests. We also report surveys that demonstrate that students have had an increasingly favorable opinion of myCyberTutor over the four terms of its use.

CyberTutor- MIT Project Report  PDF
Progress Report 2004: Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

CyberTutor- MIT Project Report
Progress Report 2002: Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ISSN 0163-9218.

99.8% Reliable Assessment with CyberTutor  PDF
Elsa-Sofia Morote & David E. Pritchard

Effectiveness of Different Course Components in Driving Gains in Conceptual Understanding  PDF
Craig A. Ogilvie

Students in a calculus-based mechanics course at MIT were given the conceptual Force Concept Inventory (FCI) test both at the start and the end of the course. Gains in student scores are correlated with individual use of the different components in the course: small-group tutorial sessions, written problem sets, an interactive web-based problem set, collaborative work and number of sessions viewing multi-media content on the web. This makes it possible to study the relative effectiveness of the different components in improving conceptual understanding. The data indicate that usage of the webbased problem set led to gains in FCI score that were twice as large compared to the written problem set. Solving complex problems in collaborative groups also led to gains in FCI score whereas both the small-group tutorial sessions viewing web-based multi-media were less effective.

Internal report – Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000.