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Abstract Title: Building up to complexity: synthesizing multiple concepts to solve problems
Abstract: Since complex, authentic problems inevitably involve multiple concepts, it can be productive to investigate student solution processes for relatively simple "synthesis problems" that involve a small number of concepts. For example, we find that even simple synthesis problems require qualitatively different solution methods compared to single-concept problems that are commonly used in physics courses. Through a series of studies, our team has found  a number of important factors that influence the problem solving process and can interfere with recognition of the need for multiple concepts and hinder their joint application once the relevant concept are identified. These factors can include the mathematical complexity of the solution process, whether the relevant physical phenomena are temporally simultaneous or sequential, and whether there are large differences in the cognitive availability of the relevant concepts. Further, we find that employing carefully designed worked examples and guiding students through self-explanations and analogical comparisons of the structure can significantly improve performance.  Finally, we hypothesize how these insights might be used as tools to build skills for solving complex, real world problems.
Abstract Type: Symposium Talk
Parallel Session: Understanding and assessing problem-solving in introductory physics
Session Time: Parallel Sessions Cluster III
Room: Cascade A

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Andrew Heckler
Ohio State University