Learning through computers: Uncovering students' thought processes while solving physics problems

Benson Soong

Abstract


This paper presents a study that illustrates how the author and an in service secondary school teacher used basic synchronous computer mediated communications (CMC) technology to help them uncover students' physics preconceptions and thought processes (including their misconceptions and misunderstandings) in a real class setting. In this paper, I first provide a discussion on constructivist science learning environments, highlighting the central role students' preconceptions play in their learning in the science subject domain. Next, I argue that in light of constructivist learning principles, learning may be viewed as a conceptual change process; a process which is facilitated by active problem solving attempts. I then present a study (which was part of a larger design experiment) whereby student pairs worked collaboratively to solve physics questions via NetMeeting, a free CMC software from Microsoft. Results pertaining to how protocol data of students' problem solving attempts (as recorded by NetMeeting) provided us with rich insights into the students' thought processes that are normally not easily accessible are discussed. Finally, I consider further research work that could be done in light of the findings of this study.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1193

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