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Abstract Title: Helping students learn effective problem solving strategies by reflection with peers
Abstract: We describe a study in which introductory physics students engage in reflection with peers about problem solving. The recitations for an introductory physics course with 200 students were broken into the "Peer Reflection" (PR) group and the traditional group. Each week in recitation, students in the PR group reflected in small teams on selected problems from the homework and discussed why solutions of some students employed better problem solving strategies than others. The graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants (TAs) in the PR group recitations provided guidance and coaching to help students learn effective problem solving heuristics.  In the recitations for the traditional group, students had the opportunity to ask the graduate TA questions about the homework before they took a weekly quiz. The traditional group recitation quiz questions were similar to the homework questions selected for ``peer reflection" in the PR group recitations.

As one measure of the impact of this intervention, we investigated how likely students were to draw diagrams to help with problem solving.
On the final exam with only multiple-choice questions, the PR group drew diagrams on more problems than the traditional group, even when there was no external reward for doing so. Since there was no partial credit for drawing the diagrams on the scratch books, students did not draw diagrams simply to get credit for the effort shown and must value the use of diagrams for solving problems if they drew them.

We also find that, regardless of whether the students belonged to the traditional or PR groups, those who drew more diagrams for the multiple-choice questions outperformed those who did not draw them.
Abstract Type: Targeted Poster
Targeted Session: Facilitating thinking and learning in the physics classroom

Contributed Poster

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Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Andrew Mason
University of Pittsburgh
Department of Physics and Astronomy
and Co-Presenter(s)
Chandralekha Singh
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh