The Evolution of Assessment within an Introductory Physics Course


  • Teresa L Larkin American University



authentic assessment, formative assessment, innovations in physics learning, student writing


This paper provides an overview of the evolution of an introductory physics course for non-majors entitled Physics for a New Millennium (PNM) at American University.  Following a brief summary of the research and pedagogical framework for the course design, a summary of the course curriculum will be presented. A significant portion of the course curriculum provides students with an opportunity to experience all aspects of preparing, writing, and presenting a professional research paper in a conference setting.  Following a description of the course curriculum, the specific structure for the conference paper activity will be outlined and highlights of student work will be shared with a focus on the spring 2012 class.  The conference paper activity is assessed using authentic, formative strategies and will serve as one focus of this paper. To address the authentic assessment piece, a collection of strategies and methods will be shared that have been designed to key in on what and how students are learning throughout all phases of the paper writing process.  These methods can be used as an alternative, or as a supplement to more traditional pencil and paper examinations, quizzes, and homework assignments.  The thrust of the authentic assessment is to address any deficiencies in student learning while the learning is taking place.  Exams and quizzes end up being “too little, too late” in terms of helping students correct any flaws in their understanding. Feedback from students relating to the paper writing experience will also be shared.

Author Biography

Teresa L Larkin, American University

Associate Professor of Physics Education

Department of Physics




How to Cite

Larkin, T. L. (2013). The Evolution of Assessment within an Introductory Physics Course. International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP), 3(S1), pp. 39–48.