Scientific Reasoning & Physics Conceptual Gains (Revisited)


One possible explanation for the range of FCI gains for a given Lawson Test score is the variety in student epistemologies. To test this, we identified two groups of students based on FCI gains relative to the line of best fit on the plot of FCI gain versus Lawson Test score: Group #1- well above the line and Group #2- well below the line.

The red disks represent students who filled out the epistemological survey.


Group #1 had an average of 3.71 on the MPEX's Independence section, group #2 had an average of 2.92.

A similar difference was seen with the EBAPS's Nature of Knowing& Learning section (3.82 vs 3.25).

(A score of 5 represents agreement with the favorable or “expert” views, and 1 is complete disagreement. For comparison, the class averages on the Independence and Nature of Learning sections were 3.37±0.50 and 3.65±0.31 respectively)


A few of the questions that showed the greatest differences between groups #1 and #2. (Percent of students in each group who gave a favorable response.)

  Group #1 Group #2
  • Tamara just read something in her science textbook that seems to disagree with her own experiences. But to learn science well, Tamara shouldn’t think about her own experiences; she should just focus on what the book says. (EBAPS's Nature of Knowing& Learning)
78 25
  • An expert is someone who has special gift in some area.(EQ's Ability to Learn is Innate)
78 0
  • Only very few specially qualified people are capable of really understanding physics.(MPEX's Independence)
100 50
  • A really good way to understand a textbook is to re-organize the information according to your own personal scheme. (EQ's Avoid Integration)
67 25
  • If physics and chemistry teachers gave really clear lectures, with plenty of real-life examples and sample problems, then most good students could learn those subjects without doing lots of sample questions and practice problems on their own. (EBAPS's Nature of Knowing& Learning)
56 0
  • Getting ahead takes lots of work. (EQ's Success is unrelated to hard work)
78 100


These differences were seen across all of the sampled students as several sections of the survey strongly correlated with the FCI gain.

Correlations between FCI gains and epistemological survey sections:


Other sections of the epistemological survey, including the EBAPS's Source of ability to learn, EQ's Success is unrelated to hard work, and EQ's Learning is quick showed no significant correlation with FCI gains.


Interestingly, there were no significant correlations between the cognitive measure (Lawson Test) and any of the epistemological sections.