The Educational Pitfalls of 'Plug-In' Physics


In the field of physics teaching and learning, university students' performance on exams sometimes does not effectively indicate their understanding. Namely, due to ill-conceived approaches to academic tasks, some students can obtain a higher score without actually learning scientific concepts. One typical approach is so called "plug-in" physics, by which students focus on only the values and related formulas. From an instructor's point of view, it is often difficult to identify this problem. Although this method may enable students to obtain "correct" answers, such students do not necessarily acquire the basic principles of physics and they cannot deal with certain types of problems in authentic "real world" contexts. This talk depicts some real examples of "plug-in" physics and explores possible solutions to this widespread problem, including the requirement of partial and sequential answers and use of visual stimuli-based problems in the design of assessments.

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