A quantitative study of a physics-first pilot program

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Hundreds of high schools around the United States have inverted the traditional core sequence of high school science courses, putting physics first, followed by chemistry, and then biology. A quarter-century of theory, opinion, and anecdote are available, but the literature lacks empirical evidence of the effects of the program. The current study was designed to investigate the effects of the program on science achievement gain, growth in attitude toward science, and growth in understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge. One hundred eighty-five honor students participated in this quasi-experiment, self-selecting into either the traditional or inverted sequence. Students took the ... continued below

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87 pages

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Pasero, Spencer Lee & U., /Northern Illinois September 1, 2008.

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Description

Hundreds of high schools around the United States have inverted the traditional core sequence of high school science courses, putting physics first, followed by chemistry, and then biology. A quarter-century of theory, opinion, and anecdote are available, but the literature lacks empirical evidence of the effects of the program. The current study was designed to investigate the effects of the program on science achievement gain, growth in attitude toward science, and growth in understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge. One hundred eighty-five honor students participated in this quasi-experiment, self-selecting into either the traditional or inverted sequence. Students took the Explore test as freshmen, and the Plan test as sophomores. Gain scores were calculated for the composite scores and for the science and mathematics subscale scores. A two-factor analysis of variance (ANOVA) on course sequence and cohort showed significantly greater composite score gains by students taking the inverted sequence. Participants were administered surveys measuring attitude toward science and understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge twice per year. A multilevel growth model, compared across program groups, did not show any significant effect of the inverted sequence on either attitude or understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge. The sole significant parameter showed a decline in student attitude independent of course sequence toward science over the first two years of high school. The results of this study support the theory that moving physics to the front of the science sequence can improve achievement. The importance of the composite gain score on tests vertically aligned with the high-stakes ACT is discussed, and several ideas for extensions of the current study are offered.

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87 pages

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  • Report No.: FERMILAB-MASTERS-2008-04
  • Grant Number: AC02-07CH11359
  • DOI: 10.2172/937235 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 937235
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc898912

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  • September 1, 2008

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Nov. 30, 2016, 7:12 p.m.

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Pasero, Spencer Lee & U., /Northern Illinois. A quantitative study of a physics-first pilot program, report, September 1, 2008; Batavia, Illinois. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc898912/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.