Assessment of Textbook Problem Solving Ability (ATPSA)

Developed by Jeffrey Marx and Karen Cummings

To gauge students’ problem-solving ability in the context of Newton’s Laws, energy, and momentum, in order to assess the impact of reforms on students’ ability to solve traditional textbook problems.
Format Pre/post, Short answer
Duration 45 min
Focus Problem solving (Newton's laws, momentum, energy)
Level Intro college

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Sample questions from the ATPSA:

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J. Marx and K. Cummings, Development of a Survey Instrument to Gauge Students’ Problem-Solving Abilities, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2010, Portland, Oregon, 2010.
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Bronze Validation
This is the third highest level of research validation, corresponding to at least 3 of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • Student thinking

Studied Using:

  • Student interviews
  • Expert review
  • Appropriate statistical analysis

Research Conducted:

  • At multiple institutions
  • By multiple research groups
  • Peer-reviewed publication

The open-ended questions on the ATPSA are designed to look like problems the end of a textbook chapter, cover Newton’s Laws, momentum, and energy and have a range of difficulties for each concept area. The questions were tested with over 275 students at four universities. The difficulty of the items was analyzed, and it was found some should be revised to have the appropriate difficulty. Scores among different groups of students correlated well with other measures such as SAT scores and previous physics experience. Further, there are some questions that can be solved using alternative methods than those intended. The ATPSA is still undergoing development. The ATPSA has been test with over 275 students and the results published in two peer-reviewed papers.


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Typical Results

Typical results from Cummings and Marx 2010:

The latest version of the ATPSA, released in 2001, is version 1.