Selecting the Correct Solution to a Physics Problem When Given Several Possibilities

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Title: Selecting the Correct Solution to a Physics Problem When Given Several Possibilities
Author: Richards, Evan
Advisors: Dr. John Risley, Committee Member
Dr. Robert Beichner, Committee Co-Chair
Dr. Ruth Chabay, Committee Co-Chair
Dr. Bruce Sherwood, Committee Member
Abstract: Decades of research have identified what actions students take when studying written passages or worked examples. Such research has provided a rather profound understanding of which actions are beneficial for learning. Unfortunately, the research has not fully explored how to encourage the use of the beneficial learning actions within the realm of physics. From my own pilot work, examples encompassing less complex material tend to have a questionable impact. Yet when the material is expanded to more complex situations, some participants tended to become overwhelmed or provide other evidence of shallow processing. However, given the ascension of promising reforms that integrate incorrect solutions, perhaps the inclusion of incorrect solutions might cue the elusive beneficial learning actions. While the research does provide assessments of such reforms, there are limited results on what mental processing emerges. This paper reports a study that is directed toward the above issues. Participants were given four physics problems. The participants were also given three possible solutions for each problem. Only one of the solutions was correct, while the other two contained errors. The participants were asked to identify the correct solution and the errors in the other solutions. The central research question is: what actions emerge when performing this task of selecting the correct solution and finding the errors in the other solutions? Overall, the actions associated with the above task are reassuringly consistent with the worked example literature and the reading comprehension literature. The analysis also suggests two results regarding participant attention. Participant judgments tended to include physics-related aspects of the solution that were different across given solutions, and for the sample as a whole, some degree of processing was found for all information representations used in this study (prose, pictorial, and mathematical).
Date: 2010-04-20
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Physics

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