Smith and Wittmann on teaching Newton's Third Law

Trevor I. Smith and Michael C. Wittmann
Comparing three methods for teaching Newton’s third law
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 020105 (2007)

Although guided-inquiry methods for teaching introductory physics have been individually shown to be more effective at improving conceptual understanding than traditional lecture-style instruction, researchers in physics education have not studied differences among reform-based curricula in much detail. Several researchers have developed University of Washington–style tutorial materials, but the different curricula have not been compared against each other. Our study examines three tutorials designed to improve student understanding of Newton’s third law: the University of Washington’s Tutorials in Introductory Physics (TIP), the University of Maryland’s Activity-Based Tutorials (ABT), and the Open Source Tutorials (OST) also developed at the University of Maryland. Each tutorial was designed with different goals and agendas, and each employs different methods to help students understand the physics. We analyzed pretest and post-test data, including course examinations and data from the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE). Using both FMCE and course data, we find that students using the OST version of the tutorial perform better than students using either of the other two.