Examining Thematic Variation in a Phenomenographical Study on Computational Physics

Published in Conference Proceedings for the Physics Education Research Conference, 2017

Recommended citation: N. Hawkins, M. Obsniuk, P. Irving, and M. Caballero, PERC 2017 Proceedings, 168-171. https://doi.org/10.1119/perc.2017.pr.037

Projects and Practices in Physics (P3) is a transformed, first-year introductory mechanics course offered at Michigan State University. The focus of the course is concept-based group learning implemented through solving analytic problems and computational modeling problems using the VPython programming environment. Interviews with students from P3 were conducted to explore the variation of students’ perceptions of the utility of solving computational physics problems in the classroom setting. A phenomenographic method is being used to develop categories of student experience with computational physics problems based on themes emerging across the different students’ interviews. This paper will focus on exploring the variation within the theme of Computation Helps to Learn Physics that arose from our preliminary analysis of the data from a larger phenomenographic study. When examined on an individual basis, this theme provides important insights into students’ perception of the use of computation, such as the way that students can engage with computation as a learning tool in a Physics classroom.

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