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Abstract Title: Reasoning Modes, Knowledge Elements, and Their Interplay in Optics Problem-Solving
Abstract: We have investigated how students tackle problems in geometric optics involving ray construction, to try to understand the nature and origin of the surprisingly wide variety of students' solution attempts. We find that students use various reasoning modes and knowledge elements in conjunction. Their thinking may usefully be described as an interplay of principle-based and case-based reasoning, drawing on a knowledge mixture of basic principles, procedures, specific cases and recalled result features. Even though we usually present solutions and teach problem-solving as a systematic application of principles, real cognition is more complex. Associative thinking in terms of prior cases seems to be a strong natural tendency of both novices and experts. However novices are not easily able to discriminate the specific from the general, and tend to lack epistemic awareness and metacognitive skills. Our research findings will be illustrated by examples of student thinking on a basic reflection problem. Implications for learning and  instruction will be discussed.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Adriana Undreiu
Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University
326 S. Kendall Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Phone: 269-267-2198
and Co-Presenter(s)
David Schuster
Physics Department and Mallinson Institute for Science Education
david.schuster -at- wmich.edu

Betty Adams
Mallinson Institute for Science Education
Basmada -at- aol.com