Talking Physics: How the Ability to Communicate Physics Concepts Affects Learning
University of Illinois
Physics is a difficult but important subject for most undergraduate engineering students. Physics education research has contributed to significant improvements in physics instruction, including the use of group work and a conceptual change model of student learning. However, many students still face difficulties in learning physics. This thesis draws attention to the role that ?talking physics? plays in physics education. Talking physics refers to the communication of physics concepts and arguments, and can take the form of verbal communication, algebra, calculus, or graphing. Results show that failing to talk physics can be detrimental to a group?s success in problem solving and that individual students who lack certain skills, such as calculus, are at a disadvantage to their peers in learning physics. The effects on instructors from students who may provide explanations that do not reflect their understanding are also examined.