Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in S.T.E.M. Education


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Laurie O. Cavey, Ph.D.


Daryl J. Macomb, Ph.D.


Louis S. Nadelson, Ph.D.


The rubber sheet analogy for Einstein’s General Relativity model of gravity is a popular way to visualize the effect mass has on the curvature of spacetime. My single group, quasi-experimental study with repeated measures was designed to assess the effectiveness of the rubber sheet analogy in teaching gravitational fields. I developed instructional materials, including a hands-on lab, to engage university students in thinking about gravity using the rubber sheet analogy. Previous research on students’ ideas about gravity informed the development of the pre/post-test. My work is an important first step in establishing a standard assessment on gravity.

Approximately 97 students in a university-level conceptual physics course participated. The results are promising. Normalized gains for students were about 30%. Post-test scores indicate improvement in student recognition of factors that do and do not influence gravity. There were significant differences in student performance for two demographic categories (sex and age).