Changing Students’ Approach to Learning Physics in Postsecondary Gateway Courses

Calvin S. Kalman, Bruce M Shore, Mark W Aulls, Tetyana Antimirova, Juss Kaur Magon, Gyoungho Lee, Ricardo Coelho, Gul Unal Coban, Xiang Huang, Ahmed Ibrahim, Xihui Wang, Dang Diep Minh Tan, Guopeng Fu, Wahidun Khanam


This study investigated if and how a combined set of specially developed activities can help students change their approach to learning physics. These activities included (a) reflective-writing activities, (b) critique-writing activities, and (c) reflective write-pair-share activities combined with conceptual-conflict collaborative-group exercises. Each of these activities was previously successfully tested as a stand-alone activity. This investigation was conducted at two different institutions over a three-year period. At each institution the same instructor taught students in two sections. At the first, a university with a substantial graduate school, sections were relatively large (over 100 students each) covering a typical introductory calculus-based mechanics course. At the second, a community college, there were relatively small classes (32 students each) covering a typical algebra-based introductory course in mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. The courses at the two institutions used different textbooks and had different formats. Measured data included student interviews and writing products. We developed rubrics for evaluation of the impact of the writing products and interviews of students. The main results of this study were the changes in students’ approaches to learning physics, especially as revealed in the interviews. Students who experienced the full suite of activities (a) changed their understanding of physics from solving problems to creating a network of interrelated concepts, and they also (b) modified their approach to learning physics from repetitious review to consideration of the interconnections of the subject matter and (c) related their new learning to key concepts in an overall physics framework.

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

Copyright © Sciedu Press

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add ‘’ domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', please check your 'spam' or 'junk' folder.