“Does That Make Sense?”: A Mixed Methods Study Investigating High School Physics Students’ Use of Metacognition While Solving Physics Problems




Stehle, Stephanie Michele

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Students come to their high school physics classroom with experiences and knowledge that can be used to help explain physics concepts, but those experiences may not fully align with the scientifically accepted science concept. When there is a misalignment between a student’s prior knowledge and the scientifically accepted concept a misconception can occur. Conceptual change theory explains that before a student shifts their prior understanding, they must be dissatisfied with their prior knowledge. The process of being dissatisfied with their prior knowledge requires the student to evaluate their current conception by engaging in metacognition. The purpose of this mixed methods study is to better understand how seven high school physics students use cognition, metacognition, and dissatisfaction while solving physics problems to address misconceptions and prompt conceptual change. Data collection included quantitative and qualitative measures of metacognition. The Physics Metacognitive Inventory (PMI) was used to measure participants’ reported use of physics metacognitive problem solving strategies. A think aloud protocol was used to document participants’ cognition and metacognition while solving physics problems. Analysis included descriptive statistics of the PMI, coding of the think aloud, a joint display comparing quantitative and qualitative analysis, a similarity matrix heatmap displaying the overlay of physics problem solving steps and metacognition processes, and a case for each participant. Results found that each participant had their own problem solving style and way of engaging with cognition, metacognition, and dissatisfaction while solving the problems. Overall, participants were most likely to engage in metacognition during the planning phase of problem solving with comprehension monitoring being the most used metacognitive process. Participants were categorized in two ways. First, they were categorized as conceptual, computational, or hybrid based on what type of physics knowledge they relied on while solving the problems. Second as either an arrow or iterator based on how they moved through the problems. There were two types of dissatisfaction statements shared in the seven think aloud interviews, internal dissatisfaction and external dissatisfaction. Each of the seven participants expressed at least one statement of dissatisfaction during their think aloud interview. Participants were most likely to be in the planning phase of problem solving prior to and immediately following their statement of dissatisfaction, specifically choosing a concept or equations. Emergent themes from the think aloud address how participants used (a) teacher influence and expectations, (b) problems as assessments, and (c) common sense and logic as part of their cognition and metacognition while solving physics problems. Implications and future research will be discussed.



Science education, Conceptual change, Dissatisfaction, Metacognition, Physics, Problem solving