Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 4207-4213
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
Physics problem solving is a crucial task in the process of instruction of the subject of Physics at engineering degrees. We had found that students have problems in understanding how the physical phenomena proceed. The information visualization technique we present herein aims at fostering the development of increasing the students' interest in physics. The use of information visualization is a very powerful tool to bring the key concepts to the students.

Our observations after more than a decade of teaching Physics in higher education, show that an inexperienced student tends to solve a problem by assembling individual equations until obtaining sensible results. However, an expert solves a problem by following a process of successive refinements, first by describing the main problem features by seemingly vague pictures or diagrams, and only later considering the problem in greater detail in more mathematical language. Therefore, expertise in solving Physics problems is characterized by the ability to visualize or represent the problem.

We have been investigating a Physics problem solver machine with information visualization and model-building as the primary research issues. Idealized formal models have been built with information visualization features, supported by detailed observation of expert individuals. In addition, experimental instruction based on such features seems to improve problem-solving significantly. These studies yield thus some basic insights into thinking processes effective for problem solving.

In this paper, we present the description of a teaching framework that supports multiple representations (e.g., viewing many objects as a single canonical physical object), handling of incompletely specified problems, and invertability of the representations. This problem-solver machine provides a powerful representational mechanism that allows a finite set of physical principles can be applied to a potentially infinite variety of problems. The problem-solving machine can be seen as a knowledge engineering technique, not to be used to obtain solutions for a certain problem but to be considered as a learning approach.

The problem solver machine has been used as the main teaching tool in the subject of Physics for first year students in civil engineering degree at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Results are presented and discussed herein showing that an improvement in efficiency in the processes of acquisition of knowledge, capabilities and skills by students can be reached. Those improvements were made not only in the comprehension of the subject of Physics, in which has been implanted, but also in transversal skills such as decision-making ability analysis and synthesis, expression, communication and collaboration, among others.
Information visualization, knowledge representation, physical systems, physics problem solving.