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Can student attitudes be used as predictors of success in problem solving

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Teaching problem solving in student centered, conceptually focused courses. ... In solving problems in physics, being able to handle the mathematics is the most ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Can student attitudes be used as predictors of success in problem solving


1
Can student attitudes be used as predictors of
success in problem solving?
  • Karen Cummings
  • Southern Connecticut State University New Haven,
    CT

2
Outline
  • Existing work on measuring student
    attitudes/beliefs/expectations in physics
  • My recent work in measuring student
    attitudes/beliefs/expectations in regard to
    problem solving
  • Teaching problem solving in student centered,
    conceptually focused courses.

3
Problem Solving Attitudes Survey
  • Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX) like
    scoring philosophy and administration.
  • Some questions were taken from the MPEX (and
    modified or not).

4
Maryland Physics Expectation Survey
  • Work done by Richard Steinberg, Joe Redish and
    Jeff Saul (U Maryland)
  • Likert scale survey. Statements are made.
    Respondents strong agree to strongly disagree
    with the statement.
  • Several clusters of questions that probe
    student attitudes, beliefs and expectations in
    regard to learning physics.

5
  • Beliefs about learning physics " Understanding"
    physics basically means being able to recall
    something you've read or been shown.
  • Beliefs about the content of physics knowledge
    The most crucial thing in solving a physics
    problem is finding the right equation to use.
  • Beliefs about the structure of physics knowledge
    A significant problem in this course will be
    being able to memorize all the information I need
    to know.
  • Beliefs about the connection of physics to
    reality To understand physics, I expect to think
    about my personal experiences and relate them to
    the topic being analyzed
  • Beliefs about the role of mathematics in physics
    All I learn from a derivation is that the formula
    obtained is valid and that it is OK to use it in
    problems.

6
Testing procedure
  • Right or Favorable answers are determined by
    giving a survey to a group of experts
  • Students are given the survey pre and/or
    post-instruction
  • Motion of student responses toward those given by
    the experts is seen as progress.

7
  • Beliefs about learning physics " Understanding"
    physics basically means being able to recall
    something you've read or been shown.
  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree

8
General Trend
9
The Problem Solving Attitudes Survey
  • Part of a project to develop a measure of student
    quantitative problem solving ability
  • Based on the assumption that expert
    introductory physics problem solvers share
    characteristic attitudes.

10
Markers of Expertise in Quantitative Problem
Solving
  • Expertise is characterized by more than just the
    ability to generate a correct answer.
  • Confidence-even in the face of uncertainty
  • Ability/tendency to evaluate progress.
  • Well established and acknowledged processes for
    solving standard types of problems.
  • Conceptual basis overrides distraction of various
    surface features or mathematical tasks.

11
Problem Solving Attitudes Survey
  • MPEX like scoring philosophy and administration.
  • Some questions were taken from the MPEX (and
    modified or not).
  • 23 total questions.
  • Given to PER experts, RPI students (pre-post),
    Southern CT and McDaniel students (post).

12
Example Expert Response Distributions (n25)
13
The three discarded questions
  • 53.In solving textbook problems in introductory
    physics, one should NOT start out by ignoring the
    details presented in the problem statement.
  • 56. In solving textbook problems in introductory
    physics, identifying the correct equation or
    equations to use is the most important part of
    the process.
  • 58. In solving textbook problems in introductory
    physics, I often find it helpful if I can find a
    similar problem that is worked out in the
    textbook. I can then use that problem solution
    as a pattern for use in the solving the new
    problem.

14
Scoring the Survey
  • Agree and Strongly agree answers are given a
    value of 1
  • Disagree and Strongly disagree answers are given
    a value of -1
  • All expert answers are taken to be -1 or 1.

15
The Remaining 20 questions are Very Good
Discriminators Between Top 1/3 and Bottom 1/3 of
Students at RPI
  • Breaking by FMCE score, the top third was more
    expert like than the bottom third on every
    question.
  • Breaking by numerical course grade, the top third
    was more expert like on 18/20 questions.
  • The progression toward expert was bottom, middle,
    top in 13/20 questions with grouping by FMCE
    score and 10/20 questions with grouping by course
    grade.
  • The 10 are a subset of the 13, so this
    information may be used help to weed out
    questions.

16
67. If I came up with two different
approaches to a problem and they gave different
answers, I would not worry about it I would just
choose the answer that seemed most reasonable.
(Assuming the answer is not in the back of the
book.) (MPEX) 64. Equations are not things
that one understands in an intuitive sense they
are just givens that one can use to calculate
numerical answers. (Modified MPEX)
17
51. In solving problems in physics, being able
to handle the mathematics is the most important
part of the process. 70. If Im not sure about
the right way to start a problem, Im stuck.
There is nothing I can do with that problem
except to go see the teacher or a friend for help.
18
61. I have a general approach that I apply in
solving all problems that are solvable using
conservation of linear momentum. 69. To be able
to use an equation in a problem (particularly in
a problem that I haven't seen before), I need to
know more than what each term in the equation
represents. (MPEX)
19
55. In solving textbook problems in introductory
physics, I can often tell when my work and/or
answer is wrong, even without looking at the
answer in the back of the book or talking to
someone else about it.
20
48. Suppose you are given two problems. One
is about a box sliding down an inclined plane.
There is friction between the incline and the
box. The other is about a person swinging on a
rope. There is air resistance between the person
and the air molecules. You are told that both
problems can be solved using the concept of
conservation of energy. Which of the following
statement do you MOST agree with? Chose only one
answer. A) The two problems can be solved using
very similar methods B) The two problems can be
solved using somewhat similar methods C) The two
problems must be solved using quite different
methods D) The two problems must be solved using
very different methods E) There is not enough
information given to know how the problems will
be solved
21
55. In solving textbook problems in introductory
physics, I can often tell when my work and/or
answer is wrong, even without looking at the
answer in the back of the book or talking to
someone else about it.
22
Markers of Expertise in Quantitative Problem
Solving
  • Confidence-even in the face of uncertainty
  • Ability/tendency to evaluate progress.
  • Well established and acknowledged processes for
    solving standard types of problems.
  • Conceptual basis overrides distraction of various
    surface features or mathematical tasks.

23
Scoring the Survey
  • Agree and Strongly agree answers are given a
    value of 1
  • Disagree and Strongly disagree answers are given
    a value of -1
  • All expert answers are taken to be -1 or 1.
  • Then student answers which agree with experts are
    awarded one point.

24
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25
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26
Conclusions and Future Tasks
  • These questions show promise as a diagnostic tool
    for evaluation of intro. courses.
  • Expert pool should be broadened to improve face
    validity.
  • Number of questions can be further reduced.
  • Survey will be combined with other types of
    questions already developed to produce a
    preliminary problem solving assessment.
  • Then re-evaluate correlations and perform
    validation studies.
  • Work funded in part by an NSF-POWRE grant.

27
Teaching Problem Solving in Student Centered
Classrooms.
  • As a man asked last night
  • Where does one find the time to teach problem
    solving when instructional time is shifted to
    building conceptual understanding through
    hands-on activities?

28
Spent time wisely- Do What Helps
  • Teach and Model an expert-like approach to
    solving problems.
  • Hellers-University of Minnesota
  • Reifs- Carnegie Mellon
  • GOAL (Beichner)

29
Do What Helps
  • Teach and Model an expert-like approach to
    solving problems.
  • In general
  • Draw a Picture
  • Identify what is given/ unknown, assign variable
    names and coordinate system
  • Identify guiding concept
  • Draw Diagrams/Graphs/Pictures
  • Chose equations
  • Solve algebraically-Use dimensional analysis to
    check answer
  • Plug in numbers, check to reasonableness.

30
Do What Helps
  • Teach and Model an expert-like approach to
    solving problems.
  • Model the problem solving approach in doing 1-2
    touch stone problems before the homework is
    assigned.
  • Give the students 1-2 similar problems to do in
    class as a group, before homework is assigned.
    Teach is there as resource for individual
    interventions.
  • Collect the homework, or use a computer based
    homework system. Force students to do the work.
    You are what you grade.

31
Dont Waste Time
  • Dont assign problems that require tricks.
  • Challenge students with a few, but not all of the
    assigned problems.
  • Dont go over all the homework after it is due.
    If less then 25 of the class want to see a
    problem done, dont do it.
  • I dont post solutions and the students have
    never complained.

32
Thank You For Coming
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