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An important result of physics education research is that students’ learning and success in a course is correlated with their beliefs, attitudes, and expectations regarding physics. However, it is hard to assess these beliefs for individual students, and traditional survey instruments such as the Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX) are intended to evaluate the impact of one or more semesters of instruction on an overall class and improve teaching. In this study, we investigate the possibility of using the analysis of online student discussion behavior as an indicator of an individual student’s approach to physics. These discussions are not tainted by the effects of self-reporting, and are gathered in authentic nonresearch settings, where students attempt to solve problems in the way that they believe is most efficient and appropriate. We calculate the correlation of both MPEX and student discussions with different measures of student learning, and find that on an individual base, student discussions are a stronger predictor of success than MPEX outcomes.
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