Response Curves

How much do students learn, and how quickly do they forget?


Eleanor C Sayre


January 1, 2011

I developed the Response Curve Methodology, an innovation in evaluation that allows measurement of student understanding on time-scales inaccessible to traditional pre/post-testing: weeks or finer. With response curves, evaluators can observe the dynamics of student learning and measure temporal phenomena such as constructive and destructive interference between topics. For the last four years, my collaborator Scott Franklin and I have led the development and validation of an online assessment tool, RAWR (Rapid Assessment and Web Reports), that automates the data collection and analysis to generate response curves (NSF DUE-1240782). The system has been tested on over 8000 physics students at RIT and the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Response curves from RAWR and related studies using paper-based assessment have investigated the dynamics of students’ understanding in electrostatics, circuits and magnetic field direction, Newton’s Third Law, force and motion, epistemology and self-efficacy, and vectors.

Other research with the RAWR system included correlating student answers with their demographics, epistemologies, and course activities; and adapting the system for use in the DEAR-Faculty project.

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