How prompting force diagrams discourages student use of adaptive problem-solving shortcuts

Eric Kuo, Nicole R. Hallinen, Luke D. Conlin

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Current step-by-step, problem-solving frameworks have been shown to improve aspects of students' problem solving. However, conceptual problem-solving shortcuts that break from these frameworks may demonstrate adaptive problem solving. Following an approach from Heckler [1], we show that prompting introductory physics students to complete a common initial step of these frameworks ("draw a free-body diagram") before solving force problems decreases the use of conceptual shortcuts and increases reproduction of standard procedures. Extending this paradigm, students were then asked to evaluate a sample informal solution for a force problem. When the problem text included a diagram prompt, students rated the informal solution less favorably, commenting that the solution was not formal enough. These results imply that the prompt to draw a diagram not only cues procedural problem-solving approaches, but also may push students away from informal approaches that demonstrate problem-solving expertise.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Dec 18 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event2015 Physics Education Research Conference - College Park, MD
Duration: Jul 29 2015Jul 30 2015


Conference2015 Physics Education Research Conference


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