Students’ progress during an assignment in computational physics: mental models and code development
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Solving physics problems in university physics education using a numerical approach requires knowledge and skills in several domains, for example, physics, mathematics, programming, and modeling. In this study students' mental models are monitored using interviews at several occasions during an assignment in computational physics. The interview data was analysed using a network analysis approach. Interview transcripts were coded according to the context dependent concepts that were used to define the particular context and situation of this assignment. The adjacency of concepts in the transcripts was assumed to reflect the associations between them made by students, and thus representing students' mental models of the problem solving situation at the time of the interview. For each student a network was built where the concepts were nodes and their adjacency formed the links between them. The changes in students' mental models between the interview occasions gave important information about what the students were focusing on at different stages of the solution process. What students focused on at the different interview occasions was assumed to be an indication of what they believed was useful in solving the task. The visualization of the mental models showed that at the beginning students were concerned about how to deal with writing the Matlab code that was needed to model the problem. As students got more comfortable with the coding process, the physics needed to assure that their simulation was following physics principles, such as energy conservation, became more and more central in their narratives. This study gives important contribution to how networks can be used to model students' thinking in a particular context and provides important knowledge about students' progress in a task in computational physics.
computational physics, mental models, network analysis, content analysis
Research subject didactics of physics
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-53281OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-53281DiVA: diva2:510997
Manuscript submitted for publication in: Research in science education, ISSN 0157-244X, EISSN 1573-18982012-03-202012-03-192012-03-20Bibliographically approved