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The case for individualized-instruction: Preconception-Instruction-Interaction

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics I

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1169.1 - 23.1169.15



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Paper Authors


Thomas Mark Scaife University of Wisconsin-Platteville

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Thomas M. Scaife is an Assistant Professor of Physics in the Department of Engineering Physics at University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He is particularly interested in the individual differences between students' paths to mastery of physical concepts and computer adaptive solutions to aid this mastery. Beyond physics, he has worked with the freshmen engineering program at UW-Platteville to assist in remediation of spatial-visualization skills. Additionally, he is currently serving as the Interim Director of Digital Content for Physics, Engineering, and Computer Science at McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

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Andrew F Heckler Ohio State University

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Andrew F. Heckler is an Associate Professor of Physics at Ohio State University. His original area of research was in Cosmology and Astrophysics. In the past nine years, he has focused on Physics Education Research, studying fundamental learning mechanisms involved in learning physics, the effects of representation on learning and problem solving, and the evolution of physics understanding during and after a physics course. As part of the education component of an NSF MRSEC center, he is also leading a project to identify and address student difficulties in learning materials science.

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The case for individualized-instruction: Preconception-Instruction-InteractionIt is commonly believed that when instruction is tailored to students' learning styles (e.g., visual,auditory, kinesthetic), learning increases. When studied in controlled environments, however, ithas been shown repeatedly that instruction aligned with learning styles does appreciablycorrelate with increased understanding [1]. The roots of learning-style research lie in theframework of Aptitude-Treatment-Interactions [2], in which an aptitude is classified as any``pre-treatment characteristic.'' Learning-styles might be described as aptitudes, but they do notexhibit an interaction with treatment.In this paper, we extend the definition of aptitude to include characteristics of a learner's state ofunderstanding. Students enter physics classrooms with a wealth of experience about the physicalworld. These varied experiences, likely lead to differing ideas about physical phenomena priorto instruction. We propose, therefore, that these preconceptions are aptitudes with whichinstruction might interact differently. In particular, do certain kinds instructional examples helpthe learning of students with one kind of (incorrect) preconception but hinder the learning ofstudents with a different preconception?As a test-case for such a preconception-instruction-interaction, we examined student-understanding of power-dissipation across resistors in DC circuits. Students predominantlypresented two incorrect preconceptions: the greater equivalent resistance always dissipates morepower and the lesser equivalent resistance always dissipates more power. Once diagnosed with apreconception, students received instruction by completing different kinds of practice examples.Critically, students with differing preconceptions did respond differently to instruction. Thissuggests that when multiple preconceptions are present, multiple, potentially individualizedinstruction might be necessary in order to maximize student understanding.[1] H. Pashler, M. McDaniel, D. Rohrer, and R. Bjork, Psychol Sci Publ Interest 9, 105 (2008).[2] L. J. Chronbach and R. E. Snow, Aptitudes and Instructional Methods: a Handbook forResearch on Interactions (Irvington Publishers, Inc., New York, New York, 1977).

Scaife, T. M., & Heckler, A. F. (2013, June), The case for individualized-instruction: Preconception-Instruction-Interaction Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22554

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