Using isomorphic problems to learn introductory physics

Shih Yin Lin, Chandralekha Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)

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. Three hundred sixty-two students from a calculus-based and an algebra-based introductory physics course were given a quiz in the recitation in which they had to first learn from a solved problem provided and take advantage of what they learned from it to solve another problem (which we call the quiz problem) which was isomorphic. Previous research suggests that the multiple-concept quiz problem is challenging for introductory students. Students in different recitation classes received different interventions in order to help them discern and exploit the underlying similarities of the isomorphic solved and quiz problems. We also conducted think-aloud interviews with four introductory students in order to understand in depth the difficulties they had and explore strategies to provide better scaffolding. We found that 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. However, they were not necessarily able to apply the principles correctly. Research suggests that more scaffolding is needed to help students in applying these principles appropriately. We outline a few possible strategies for future investigation. Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number020104
JournalPhysical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Aug 31

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this

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Using isomorphic problems to learn introductory physics. / Lin, Shih Yin; Singh, Chandralekha.

In: Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, Vol. 7, No. 2, 020104, 31.08.2011.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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