Eye-gaze patterns as students study worked-out examples in mechanics

Adam D. Smith, Jose P. Mestre, Brian H. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores what introductory physics students actually look at when studying worked-out examples. Our classroom experiences indicate that introductory physics students neither discuss nor refer to the conceptual information contained in the text of worked-out examples. This study is an effort to determine to what extent students incorporate the textual information into the way they study. Student eye-gaze patterns were recorded as they studied the examples to aid them in solving a target problem. Contrary to our expectations from classroom interactions, students spent 40 ± 3% of their gaze time reading the textual information. Their gaze patterns were also characterized by numerous jumps between corresponding mathematical and textual information, implying that they were combining information from both sources. Despite this large fraction of time spent reading the text, student recall of the conceptual information contained therein remained very poor. We also found that having a particular problem in mind had no significant effects on the gaze-patterns or conceptual information retention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number020118
JournalPhysical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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