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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Strategies for promoting real-world connections in problem solving for introductory physics Martinuk, Mathew Alexander


It is well known that students’ beliefs about the nature of knowledge and learning in physics affect their motivation and learning in this subject. In this thesis I examine a course transformation that presented the entire course in terms of real-world circumstances and problems which was intended to promote students’ perception of the relevance of physics to the real world and to enable them to develop problem-solving skills for addressing complex real-world problems. By examining course-wide surveys I demonstrate that the intended improvement in students’ perception of the relevance of physics did not occur, suggesting that teaching physics in a real-world context is not, in itself, sufficient for improving students’ belief in the relevance of physics. Two interview studies reveal some of the features that students report are important in their perception of the relevance of physics to the real world. I use the theoretical framework of epistemological framing and resources to study students’ response to complex real-world problems that were intended to promote students’ use of real-world knowledge and enable development of expert-like problem-solving skills. I argue that students’ use of real-world knowledge within a physics context are opportunities for them to develop a more favorable attitude towards physics in general and develop a coding scheme for identifying these instances. This study demonstrates that students’ use of their real-world knowledge in physics is highly correlated with their framing of their activity as conceptual (rather than procedural) discussion. In addition, I demonstrate that the course’s structured problem solving method is not effective at promoting conceptual discussion at appropriate times during the problem-solving process.

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