Previous research has demonstrated that many students not only emerge from their studies ofphysics with serious gaps in their conceptual understanding but that they also experience seriousstructural difficulties when solving physics problems, such as being able to see the structureof possible solutions and answers before actually solving the problem [1, 2]. One commonly implementedinstructional strategy to bridge these two types of gaps is to let students solve problems in groups, asthis leads to better conceptual understanding and students are able to solve more complex problems ingroups than individually [3,4]. There has, however, been very little research focusing on how the problemsolving process changes when students solve physics problems together rather than individually. In this case study, we explore differences and similarities in how students formulate and solve physicsproblems in groups and individually. The empirical data comprised video-recorded sessions of studentssolving problems in groups  and semi-structured interviews with other students solving thesame set of problems individually . All students were enrolled in Engineering Physics at Chalmers Universityof Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The problems were drawn from Newtonian mechanicsand the solution to the problems required an understanding of basic notions such as force, friction, accelerationand system. Success on the problems also required an understanding of basic mathematicalnotions such as functions, systems of equations and derivatives. An analysis of the video-recordingsand the interviews revealed how the students struggled with both near- and far transfer [6, 7], i.e. transferto a similar and a different context. Moreover, different patterns of problem solving that were connectedto the social context, i.e. if the problems were solved in groups or individually, became apparent.A comparison between these contexts illustrates some of the benefits of collaborative learning. Someimplications for instruction are also discussed in the paper.
2012. 176-177 p.