problem solving, physics, undergraduate, science education, think aloud, descriptive, case study
This study investigated the applicability of a general model of physics students' problem-solving experiences that suggests there are four dynamic factors affecting the problem-solving process: categorization, goal interpretation, resource relevance, and complexity. Furthermore, it suggests an overarching control factor called stabilization, which describes the inter-relatedness of the other factors over the problem-solving process. Think-aloud protocols of problem-solving experiences were used to investigate the model. Results of the study showed that conceptual resources had a significant impact on the success of problem-solving attempts. Participants who exhibited a lack of understanding of physics concepts were less likely to check their work, use diagrams effectively, set subgoals, or to use geometric or trigonometric resources, and were more likely to use a formula-driven search for a solution than those who exhibited evidence of conceptual understanding. However, conceptual understanding did guarantee problem-solving success. Mathematical and procedural knowledge was also seen as important. While many of the specific observations were consistent with the existing literature, the model provides an alternative framework with which to understand and synthesize those observations. The model was shown to be partially successful in describing participants' problem-solving experiences. Categorization, resource relevance and goal interpretation were supported to varying degrees; however, there was less evidence to support the construct of complexity. Determination of evidence for stabilization was guided by a working definition based on the participants' search for a stable understanding of the problem. Implications of these results for research and practice were noted.
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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
College of Education
Curriculum and Instruction
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Savrda, Sherry, "A Descriptive Framework For The Problem-solving Experiences Of Physics Students" (2007). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3334.