Postprint version. Published in American Journal of Physics, Volume 79, Issue 5, May 1, 2011, pages 540-545.
Copyright © 2011 American Association of Physics Teachers. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Association of Physics Teachers. The following article appeared in American Journal of Physics and may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.3557069.
We have developed a curriculum for introductory mechanics that emphasizes interactive engagement and conceptual understanding using the studio format. As previously reported, we have shown in three different quarters that the curriculum much improved the students’ conceptual understanding compared to the traditional course without significantly affecting the scores on a traditional final exam. Here we report the results for the entire three-year period during which the course was taught, 34 sections of the course were taught with 11 different instructors to over 1200 students. In each term, these sections had common exams, syllabus, and schedule. Student experiences were very similar in terms of activities. Student performance was measured using the force and motion conceptual evaluation or the force concept inventory; the average pre/post normalized gain was 0.59. There was no significant correlation with any instructor characteristics, including teaching experience, knowledge of interactive-engagement methods, and attitudes. Because the instructor characteristics are not important, it is the structure of the course that promotes the learning gains.