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Investigating the Perceived Difficulty of Introductory Physics Problems Documents

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Investigating the Perceived Difficulty of Introductory Physics Problems 

written by Elizabeth Gire and N. Sanjay Rebello

We present two studies investigating factors that correlate with students' and instructors' perceptions of problem difficulty. In the first study, introductory physics students and instructors were asked to rate the difficulty of textbook-style work-energy problems. These difficulty ratings are compared and we look for correlations between the difficulty ratings and a measure of problem complexity. We find differences between students' and instructors' ratings and a correlation between instructors' ratings and problem complexity but no significant correlation between students' ratings and problem complexity. In the second study, we asked introductory physics students and instructors to rate the difficulty of textbook-style kinematics problems. Additionally, we asked students to provide ratings of their familiarity with these problems and complete solutions. We explore the relationship between difficulty ratings, problem complexity, problem familiarity, and the rate at which students solve the problems correctly.

Published August 24, 2010
Last Modified October 20, 2010

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