Supporting the acquisition of principle-based cognitive skills in physics: The interplay of guided discovery, interleaved study, and cooperative learning

Scientific knowledge is characterized by a complex interplay of observations, their generalization into laws, and their interpretation within theoretical frameworks. Consequently, acquiring complex scientific concepts students requires both an understanding of the underlying principles and intensive practice. The practice of teaching scientific concepts, therefore, requires the combination of different learning phases to master this complexity, ensure the acquisition of adequate principle-based cognitive skills, and achieve lasting learning. We assume that in the first learning phase in which students generate a new physical concept (e.g., the motion of charged particles in magnetic fields), this concept is better acquired when it is self-generated and discovered (instead of being directly explained at the beginning). In a subsequent learning phase in which students learn when and how to apply the concept, they will learn it best when practice tasks are alternated with tasks of another concept easily confused (e.g., motion in electric fields). Thus, we investigate the effect of desirable difficulties on lasting learning in physics. For the first learning phase (conceptual learning), we study the generation effect and for the second learning phase (concept application and discrimination), we investigate the effect of interleaved practice. Successful cooperation between students can improve or even ensure individual learning success, especially for challenging learning tasks. Therefore, as a third aspect, we examine cooperation and its interaction with the two desirable difficulty factors.

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Berger, R., Kulgemeyer, C., & Lensing, P. (2019). Ein Multiple-Choice-Test zum konzeptuellen Verständnis der Kraftwirkung auf Ladungsträger in statischen elektrischen und magnetischen Feldern [A multiple-choice-test on the conceptual understanding of static electric and magnetic fields]. Zeitschrift für Didaktik der Naturwissenschaften, 25(1), 197–210. 10.1007/s40573-019-00099-2

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