Pedagogy and/or Technology: Making Difference in Improving Students' Problem Solving Skills

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American Institute of Physics


Pen input computers combined with interactive software may have substantial potential for promoting active instructional methodologies and for facilitating students’ problem solving ability. An excellent example is a study in which introductory physics students improved retention, conceptual understanding and problem solving abilities when one of three weekly lectures was replaced with group problem solving sessions facilitated with Tablet PCs and DyKnow software [1,2]. The research goal of the present study was to isolate the effect of the methodology itself (using additional time to teach problem solving) from that of the involved technology. In Fall 2011 we compared the performance of students taking the same introductory physics lecture course while enrolled in two separate problem- solving sections. One section used pen-based computing to facilitate group problem solving while the other section used low-tech methods for one third of the semester (covering Kinematics), and then traded technologies for the middle third of the term (covering Dynamics). Analysis of quiz, exam and standardized pre-post test results indicated no significant difference in scores of the two groups. Combining this result with those of previous studies implies primacy of pedagogy (collaborative problem solving itself) over technology for student learning in problem solving recitations.

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