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Changes in students’ problem-solving strategies in a course that includes context-rich, multifaceted problems
written by Craig Ogilvie
Most students struggle when faced with complex and open-ended tasks because the strategies taught in schools and universities simply require ?nding and applying the correct formulae or strategy to answer wellstructured, algorithmic problems. For students to develop their ability to solve ill-structured problems, they must ?rst believe that standardized procedural approaches will not always be suf?cient for solving engineering and scienti?c challenges. In this paper we document the range of beliefs university students have about problem solving. Students enrolled in a physics course submitted a written re?ection both at the start and the end of the course on how they solve problems. We coded approximately 500 of these re?ections for the presence of different problem-solving approaches. At the start of the semester over 50% of the students mention in written re?ections that they use Rolodex equation matching, i.e., they solve problems by searching for equations that have the same variables as the knowns and unknowns. We then describe the extent to which students' beliefs about physics problem solving change by the end of a semester-long course that emphasized problem solving via context-rich, multifaceted problems. The frequency of strategies such as the Rolodex method reduces only slightly by the end of the semester. However, there is an increase in students describing more expansive strategies within their re?ections. In particular there is a large increase in describing the use of diagrams, and thinking about concepts ?rst.
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research: Volume 5, Issue 2, Pages 020102
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