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The Dependence of Knowledge Deployment on Context Among Physics Novices

Dr. Joseph Mestre

Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

UMASS, Department of Physics and Scientific Reasoning Research Institute

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November 11, 2003 at 1:00pm

Psychology Room 101, Busch Campus

Dr. Jose Mestre

UMASS, Department of Physics and Scientific Reasoning Research Institute

The Dependence of Knowledge Deployment on Context Among Physics Novices.

I will describe a series of transfer-related studies that explore how the knowledge that students deploy and use to reason about a physical situation depends on context. More specifically, students are first asked to predict what would happen in a demonstration commonly used in undergraduate courses involving balls moving along steel tracks.  After their predictions they are shown what actually happens, followed by an explanation of why what is observed actually happens, followed by a transfer task in which they are asked to make a similar prediction in a slightly different context.  In a second experiment, students are asked to select from several animations of balls moving along the same tracks the single animation that is the most realistic. Findings from these experiments shed light on the type of knowledge that students bring to bear to reason about a physical situation, whether that knowledge facilitates or hinders transfer, how the knowledge triggered depends on context, and how performance is affected by level of physics knowledge.  Two surprising findings emerged: Students who have taken more physics perform significantly worse than students who have taken less physics, and ability to make accurate observations of motion is adversely affected by amount of physics knowledge possessed.  Explanations for these unexpected findings will be offered. 

Dr. Joseph Mestre