We sought to improve concept application in introductory mechanics by emphasizing causal statements (such as “forces change momentum”) instead of laws (such as Δp=FΔt). Using student performance on a well-documented question, this intervention showed modest improvements. However, students in classes using recently introduced “parallel pedagogy” supported by learning assistants did significantly better than conventional pedagogy classes without learning assistants. Parallel pedagogy simultaneously introduces the four concepts (momentum, energy, dynamics, kinematics) and builds complexity in parallel while focusing on concepts, dialogue, and picture drawing. Our results also further confirm the discrepancy between student performance on multiple-choice questions and ability to explain reasoning on those same questions.

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