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Determining the effective predictors of performance in a second semester algebra-based physics course

Austin, Chris
Scope and Method of Study: This study investigated the significant predictors of exam performance in a second semester algebra-based Physics course. The predictors included course components, ability variables, and behavioral variables such as learning styles and attitude about Physics. If significant predictor variables are found, then it might be possible to identify students who will struggle in the course.
Findings and Conclusions: The best predictor variable was the first semester Physics grade. Other predictor variables included course components. The course components in this study included: homework average, lab average, HBL average, pre-class quizzes, and attendance. The lab was consistently the best course component predictor variable. This study also investigated ability variables such as GPA, ACT math score, and ACT science score. Surprising the math was not a predictor variable, but the GPA and ACT science score were predictor variables. The role of behavior variables was also determined. Learning styles and Physics attitude were poor predictor of exam performance. Lastly a few other effort variables such as lab attendance, total time in a Physics helproom, and the number of times that a student attends a exam review session were poor predictors of exam performance. These variables may have been poor predictors but they were still useful effort variables. Students who attended at least two help sessions outperformed students who attended fewer than two session. Similar results were found for class attendance. Students with perfect attendance outperformed students who were willing to miss a class. Students who spent at least 7.5 hours in the helproom outperformed students who spent less time. Over the best predictor variables of exam performance was ability or effort variables. Students who are willing to put in the effort will perform well in Physics.