DASI-P: Disciplinary Attentiveness to Student Ideas in Physics

Katie Palmer
Graduate Research Assistant
Boise State University

Need: A growing consensus in science and math education identifies the importance of responsive teaching (from science), or disciplinary attentiveness (from math), in which a teacher attends and responds to the mathematical or scientific substance of students’ ideas while moving the students towards disciplinary targets (Robertson, et al., 2015). However, while physics education research has developed a suite of assessments related to students’ performance in physics, we lack parallel assessments related to instruction – particularly assessments of disciplinary attentiveness. Typically, evaluations of a teacher’s disciplinary attentiveness is done via performance assessments, either from video or in person, as the preservice teachers teach. While this provides an authentic means of assessing complex constructs, the approach is difficult to implement at scale and costly in terms of time and money to score accurately. Traditional selected-response assessments (sometimes called multiple-choice assessments) provide a more efficient means of assessing attentiveness, but can be compromised in terms of authenticity and connections to practice. The goal of this project is the development of a selected-response assessment of disciplinary attentiveness in physics for the purposes of assessing physics educator preparation programs.

Guiding question: The assessment entails physics educators analyzing students’ ideas in core physics topics and proposing next steps for addressing those ideas. To ensure that the students’ ideas and the physics educators’ responses to those ideas are representative of common ideas and responses, our first steps are to: (1) develop a suite of assessments for student responses; (2) administer these to a range of secondary schools; and (3) solicit constructed (“written”) responses from physics educators on how they interpret and would respond to those ideas. We are currently evaluating those responses for use in our “selected response” version of the assessment and will share current items and responses that we have in this poster session, and solicit feedback on the items, student responses and educator responses.

Outcomes: At this stage, we have developed a suite of rich assessment items for introductory physics students, along with a wealth of student responses to those items. We will be developing constructed responses and evaluating those responses with statistical metrics over the coming months.

Broader Impacts: Our goal is to create a suite of assessments, Disciplinary Attentiveness to Student Ideas (DASI) for all of our pre-service STEM programs (geoscience, chemistry, biology, computer science, engineering). With those, we can begin to develop more nuanced understanding of the nature of attentiveness and its development, particularly among preservice teachers and LAs. We believe that such an assessment can ultimately play a role in improving the attentiveness of physics educators at both secondary and undergraduate levels, improving physics education more broadly. Our STEM education research team is a collaboration with experts in assessment design and measurement, to support the continued integration of physics education research with methodology from research in educational assessment. By engaging with these experts in the development and validation of this assessment, the project will strengthen the integration of PER methods with current methodologies from educational assessment.

Robertson, A. D., Atkins, L. J., Levin, D. M., & Richards, J. (2015). What is responsive teaching?. In Responsive teaching in science and mathematics (pp. 19-53). Routledge.


Dr. Leslie Atkins Elliot, Boise State University, Boise, ID; Dr. Michele Carney, Boise State University, Boise, ID; Dr. Ya Mo, Boise State University, Boise, ID