home - login - register

To use or not to use diagrams: The effect of drawing a diagram in solving introductory physics problems Documents

Main Document

To use or not to use diagrams: The effect of drawing a diagram in solving introductory physics problems 

written by Alexandru Maries and Chandralekha Singh

Drawing appropriate diagrams is a useful problem solving heuristic that can transform a given problem into a representation that is easier to exploit for solving it. A major focus while helping introductory physics students learn problem solving is to help them appreciate that drawing diagrams facilitates problem solution. We conducted an investigation in which 111 students in an algebra-based introductory physics course were subjected to two different interventions during recitation quizzes throughout the semester. They were either (1) asked to solve problems in which the diagrams were drawn for them or (2) explicitly told to draw a diagram. A comparison group was not given any instruction regarding diagrams. We developed a rubric to score the problem-solving performance of students in different intervention groups. We investigated two problems involving electric field and electric force and found that students who draw expert-like diagrams are more successful problem solvers and that a higher level of detail in a student's diagram corresponds to a better score.

Published January 24, 2013
Last Modified June 27, 2013