Characterizing and Leveraging Students’ Conceptual Resources for Wave Mechanics
Goodhew, Lisa M
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In its earliest days, a primary focus of physics education research was investigating common patterns of student reasoning about specific physics topics to inform instruction and curriculum development. This continues to be a fruitful research program with practical impacts on physics teaching. Such studies provide instructors with knowledge of ideas that their students are likely to use and informs the design of instructional materials and strategies to target common student ideas. To date, the bulk of PER studies that characterize student thinking about specific physics topics have focused on identifying the ways that student thinking is inconsistent with canonical physics concepts or principles. This kind of research promotes instruction that confronts and resolves students’ incorrect thinking. The work presented in this dissertation applies an alternative theoretical framework -- resources theory – to this influential paradigm in PER. Resources theory conceptualizes student thinking as the activation of context-sensitive pieces of knowledge that are fruitful for canonical physics concepts. This work implements resources theory by assuming that student thinking is sensible and can be the beginnings of scientific reasoning. This work also takes up resources theory in the assumption that student thinking is dynamic and affected by the context of the students’ experiences, the learning environment, and the question at hand. This dissertation explores common conceptual resources for wave mechanics through both large-N investigations and an illustrative case study. Informed by these studies, this dissertation also presents preliminary instructional materials on wave propagation designed to elicit and build on students’ common conceptual resources. These results extend the field’s theoretical understanding of students’ conceptual resources and support practical implementation of a resources perspective in physics instruction.
- Physics