We have empirically identified over 40 distinct sub-skills that affect a person's ability to solve complex problems in many different contexts. The identification of so many sub-skills explains why it has been so difficult to teach or assess problem solving as a single skill. The existence of these sub-skills is supported by several studies comparing a wide range of individuals' strengths and weaknesses in these sub-skills, their “problem solving fingerprint,” while solving different types of problems including a classical mechanics problem, quantum mechanics problems, and a complex trip-planning problem with no physics. We see clear differences in the problem solving fingerprint of physics and engineering majors compared to the elementary education majors that we tested. The implications of these findings for guiding the teaching and assessing of problem solving in physics instruction are discussed.
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PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH| May 01 2015
Analyzing the many skills involved in solving complex physics problems
Wendy K. Adams;
Wendy K. Adams, Carl E. Wieman; Analyzing the many skills involved in solving complex physics problems. Am. J. Phys. 1 May 2015; 83 (5): 459–467. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4913923
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