Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Physics

First Advisor

Dr. Charles Henderson

Second Advisor

Dr. Heather Petcovic

Third Advisor

Dr. David Schuster

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

This study investigates how physics faculty perceive and use features of example problem solutions. Thirty physics instructors from diverse institutions participated in semi-structured interviews. In addition to open-ended questions, three example problem solution artifacts were used to focus on specific solution features. Data were analyzed to identify instructors’ goals for the use of example solutions and whether their goals were consistent with the solution features that they valued and used. The study concludes that many faculty have three major goals: keeping students cognitively involved, helping students become better problem solvers, and supporting students in learning physics. The study also found that faculty recognize features from different parts of the problem solving process to varying degrees. Features related to the initial problem analysis are well recognized. Features related to solution construction are recognized by about half of the faculty. Features related to checking are recognized by few faculty. In comparison to a prior study of Teaching Assistants’ (TAs) use of example solutions, faculty and TAs are very similar in the features that they notice and their preference for particular features, suggesting that faculty do not naturally become more sophisticated in their sensitivity to or use of features of example problem solutions. Focused professional development is recommended to support faculty in using example problem solutions to meet their goal of helping students become better problem solvers.

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