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Abstract Title: The impact of visual representation on knowledge activation during problem solving
Abstract: Instructors frequently observe that students sometimes have significant difficulty activating relevant physics knowledge that they seemingly possess during problem solving. We propose that at least part of the difficulty might be caused by the conventional visual representation used in teaching those knowledge. Most conventional physics representations are developed under the physical limits of pen and paper, and are not optimized to facilitate sense making among novices. When examined from a grounded cognition perspective, some of these representations may interfere with students' proper construction of conceptual understanding, and encourage shallow/rote learning of physics rules. Physics rules learned by rote requires a more precise matching of surface features to activate, and poses a higher cognitive cost during implementation. In a clinical study, we demonstrated that by improving the design of physics representation using computer animation, we can change the physics rules activated by students solving certain capacitor circuit problems. Interestingly, this improved representation design shares less surface feature similarity with the problem body when compared to the conventional representation and students are observed to spend less time watching the improved design.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Zhongzhou Chen
UIUC
1110 West Green Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Gary, Gladding
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign