Abstract

Demonstrating knowledge of major concepts and critical thinking are common learning outcomes for general education courses, especially in the sciences. Although numerous valid and reliable measures of conceptual understanding exist, the determination of critical thinking level is often more difficult, subjective, and domain-specific. This study investigates the relationship between domain-specific critical thinking and the learning of force and motion concepts within laboratory activities in a first semester, non-calculus college physics course. Regression analyses were used while controlling for age, prior physics coursework, and the conceptual understanding pretest score. Conceptual understanding was measured using the valid and reliable Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE). Critical Thinking (CT) was determined using the Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR) and the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) Taxonomy. The results indicate that students' CT has a significant correlation with their learning of force and motion concepts. In other words, students who demonstrate a Newtonian view of force and motion also demonstrate higher levels of CT. Thus, FMCE post-test scores could be used as a proxy for students' CT measurements within a first semester physics course. Additionally, the preference of the SOLO Taxonomy is based on ease of use and estimates of inter-rater reliability.

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