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Abstract Title: Characterizing problem types and features in physics-intensive PhD research
Abstract: Problem-solving in the undergraduate curriculum typically occurs in lecture-based courses and emphasizes applying a conceptual and mathematical understanding of key physics principles to given situations. This project expands the notion of problem-solving by characterizing the breadth of problem-solving activities carried out by graduate students in physics-intensive research. In 10 in-depth interviews, PhD students were asked to describe routine, difficult, and important problems they engage in. A grounded theory analysis resulted in a three dimensional framework: context, activity, and feature (that made the problem hard).  Problem contexts usually extended beyond theory and mathematics (e.g., experiments, data analysis, and computation). Important and difficult contexts blended soft and technical skills (e.g., communication and collaboration). Routine problem activities tended to be well-defined (e.g., troubleshooting) while difficult and important ones were more open-ended and had multiple solution paths (e.g., evaluating options). The results can inform curriculum development and PER with an expanded view of problem-solving.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Benjamin Zwickl
Rochester Institute of Technology
84 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623
Phone: 5854754512
and Co-Presenter(s)
Jarrett Vosburg, Anne Leak, Kelly Norris Martin, Javier Olivera

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster