Curricular Reforms that Improve Students’ Attitudes and Problem-Solving Performance
We present the most recent steps undertaken to reform the introductory algebra-based course at The George Washington University. The reform sought to help students improve their problem-solving performance. Our pedagogy relies on didactic constructs such as the GW-ACCESS problem-solving protocol, instructional sequences and problem classification schemes that we have developed and implemented in our introductory physics course.
These tools were designed to help advance students in two specific ways: 1) to improve their problem-solving performance and 2) to improve their attitudes towards learning physics. We organized traditional and research-based physics problems such that students experienced a gradual increase in complexity related to problem context, problem features and cognitive processes needed to solve the problem. The instructional environment that we created is easily adaptable to any kind of curriculum and can be readily adjusted throughout the semester. To assess the students’ problem-solving performance, we created rubrics that assess key steps of physics problem solving. The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) was administered pre- and post-instruction to determine students’ shift in dispositions towards learning physics. The results show improvements in students’ problem-solving performance and in their attitudes towards learning physics.
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