TitleSurprise! Students Don’t Do Special-Case Analysis when Unaware of It
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2018
AuthorsLenz, MacKenzie, and Elizabeth Gire
Conference NamePhysics Education Research Conference
PublisherAmerican Association of Physics Teachers
Conference LocationWashington, DC

Physics instructors often expect students to reflect on the correctness and meaning of their answers. One common reflection strategy is to perform a special-case analysis. A special case analysis examines the answer to a problem by setting a parameter to a particular value which correspond to situations one knows, or has physical intuition about, the new result. We interviewed eleven students in the first term of a calculus based introductory physics course. Six of the students were enrolled in a reformed course that prompted reflection on homework and five were in a non-reformed course that did not prompt reflection. The intent of these interviews was to learn about students’ knowledge and implementation of reflection strategies. One prompt was explicitly designed to encourage special-case analysis; when solving this prompt none of these eleven students preformed a special case analysis. When asked later in the interview if they knew what a special-case was, nine students had no recollection of this strategy and two thought it sounded familiar.

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