### Abstract

In this study, we examine introductory physics students' ability to perform analogical reasoning between two isomorphic problems which employ the same underlying physics principles but have different surface features. 382 students from a calculus-based and an algebra-based introductory physics course were administered a quiz in the recitation in which they had to learn from a solved problem provided and take advantage of what they learned from it to solve another isomorphic problem (which we call the quiz problem). The solved problem provided has two subproblems while the quiz problem has three subproblems, which is known from previous research to be challenging for introductory students. In addition to the solved problem, students also received extra scaffolding supports that were intended to help them discern and exploit the underlying similarities of the isomorphic solved and quiz problems. The data analysis suggests that students had great difficulty in transferring what they learned from a two-step problem to a three-step problem. Although most students were able to learn from the solved problem to some extent with the scaffolding provided and invoke the relevant principles in the quiz problem, they were not necessarily able to apply the principles correctly. We also conducted think-aloud interviews with six introductory students in order to understand in depth the difficulties they had and explore strategies to provide better scaffolding. The interviews suggest that students often superficially mapped the principles employed in the solved problem to the quiz problem without necessarily understanding the governing conditions underlying each principle and examining the applicability of the principle in the new situation in an in-depth manner. Findings suggest that more scaffolding is needed to help students in transferring from a two-step problem to a three-step problem and applying the physics principles appropriately. We outline a few possible strategies for future investigation.

Original language | English |
---|---|

Article number | 020114 |

Journal | Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research |

Volume | 9 |

Issue number | 2 |

DOIs | |

Publication status | Published - 2013 Oct 10 |

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### All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

- Education
- Physics and Astronomy(all)

### Cite this

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**Using an isomorphic problem pair to learn introductory physics : Transferring from a two-step problem to a three-step problem.** / Lin, Shih Yin; Singh, Chandralekha.

Research output: Contribution to journal › Article

TY - JOUR

T1 - Using an isomorphic problem pair to learn introductory physics

T2 - Transferring from a two-step problem to a three-step problem

AU - Lin, Shih Yin

AU - Singh, Chandralekha

PY - 2013/10/10

Y1 - 2013/10/10

N2 - In this study, we examine introductory physics students' ability to perform analogical reasoning between two isomorphic problems which employ the same underlying physics principles but have different surface features. 382 students from a calculus-based and an algebra-based introductory physics course were administered a quiz in the recitation in which they had to learn from a solved problem provided and take advantage of what they learned from it to solve another isomorphic problem (which we call the quiz problem). The solved problem provided has two subproblems while the quiz problem has three subproblems, which is known from previous research to be challenging for introductory students. In addition to the solved problem, students also received extra scaffolding supports that were intended to help them discern and exploit the underlying similarities of the isomorphic solved and quiz problems. The data analysis suggests that students had great difficulty in transferring what they learned from a two-step problem to a three-step problem. Although most students were able to learn from the solved problem to some extent with the scaffolding provided and invoke the relevant principles in the quiz problem, they were not necessarily able to apply the principles correctly. We also conducted think-aloud interviews with six introductory students in order to understand in depth the difficulties they had and explore strategies to provide better scaffolding. The interviews suggest that students often superficially mapped the principles employed in the solved problem to the quiz problem without necessarily understanding the governing conditions underlying each principle and examining the applicability of the principle in the new situation in an in-depth manner. Findings suggest that more scaffolding is needed to help students in transferring from a two-step problem to a three-step problem and applying the physics principles appropriately. We outline a few possible strategies for future investigation.

AB - In this study, we examine introductory physics students' ability to perform analogical reasoning between two isomorphic problems which employ the same underlying physics principles but have different surface features. 382 students from a calculus-based and an algebra-based introductory physics course were administered a quiz in the recitation in which they had to learn from a solved problem provided and take advantage of what they learned from it to solve another isomorphic problem (which we call the quiz problem). The solved problem provided has two subproblems while the quiz problem has three subproblems, which is known from previous research to be challenging for introductory students. In addition to the solved problem, students also received extra scaffolding supports that were intended to help them discern and exploit the underlying similarities of the isomorphic solved and quiz problems. The data analysis suggests that students had great difficulty in transferring what they learned from a two-step problem to a three-step problem. Although most students were able to learn from the solved problem to some extent with the scaffolding provided and invoke the relevant principles in the quiz problem, they were not necessarily able to apply the principles correctly. We also conducted think-aloud interviews with six introductory students in order to understand in depth the difficulties they had and explore strategies to provide better scaffolding. The interviews suggest that students often superficially mapped the principles employed in the solved problem to the quiz problem without necessarily understanding the governing conditions underlying each principle and examining the applicability of the principle in the new situation in an in-depth manner. Findings suggest that more scaffolding is needed to help students in transferring from a two-step problem to a three-step problem and applying the physics principles appropriately. We outline a few possible strategies for future investigation.

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U2 - 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.9.020114

DO - 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.9.020114

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84887048664

VL - 9

JO - Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research

JF - Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research

SN - 1554-9178

IS - 2

M1 - 020114

ER -