Journal article Open Access

Introductory Physics in Engineering Pathways: Discrimination of Performance Tiers and Prediction of Success

Maher M. Alarfaj; Charles Secolsky; Fahad S. Alshaya; Mariia Mazorchuk

This study sheds light on the prediction of success using cutoff scores for student grades adopted for two required Physics pathway courses (Phys. 103, and Phys. 104) for study in an engineering professions program at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. Data on course grade and GPA for students enrolled in these two courses between 2008–2014, were analyzed. Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was used to determine cutoffs for course grades using ranges of GPA. This procedure has promise as a new method for quantitatively arriving at cutoff scores using an external criterion requiring less human judgment than most existing standard setting methods. The cutoff scores are unexpectedly different in the analyses for the two different courses with Physics 104 having more stringent standards evidenced by the resulting respective cutoff scores. Overall, the cutoff scores for the two Physics courses tended to be low or moderate, implying that low and moderate course grades were obtained for even students with high GPAs, including GPAs above 4.00.

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