Applicability of the Newtonian gravity concept inventory to introductory college physics classes
The study described here extends the applicability of the Newtonian Gravity Concept Inventory (NGCI) to college algebra-based physics classes, beyond the general education astronomy courses for which it was originally developed. The four conceptual domains probed by the NGCI (Directionality, Force Law, Independence of Other Forces, and Threshold) are well suited for investigating students’ reasoning about gravity in both populations, making the NGCI a highly versatile instrument. Classical test theory statistical analysis with physics student responses preinstruction (N=1,392) and post-instruction (N=929) from eight colleges and universities across the United States indicate that the NGCI is composed of items with appropriate difficulty and discrimination and is reliable for this population. Also, expert review and student interviews support the NGCI’s validity for the physics population. Emergent similarities and differences in
how physics students reason about gravity compared to astronomy students are discussed, as well as future directions for analyzing the instrument’s item parameters across both populations.