|M.Sc Student||Bursky-Tammam Nina|
|Subject||The Power of Words: The Role of Verbalization in the|
Learning of Physics
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Miriam Reiner|
|Full Thesis text|
There is generous literary documentation of the benefits of student verbalization in learning. Studies have shown a significant correlation between clarity of verbal accounts and problem-solving performance, but the effectiveness of active verbalization as a learning tool in physics has not been systematically researched. Some studies have shown student verbalization to interfere with the accuracy of problem-solving performance when used incorrectly. Is physics learning better served by the development of unspoken physical intuition, or by learning to express concepts verbally, or both? In order to determine whether verbal expression should be emphasized or restricted in the physics classroom, and in other conceptually based subjects, we must ascertain whether or not the verbalization process contributes to students' conceptual understanding.
This study’s research questions are:
1. What are the characteristics of the problem-solving performance of subjects who construct a verbal explanation of a physical phenomenon and of those who don’t construct a verbal explanation?
2. What are the quantitative and qualitative differences, if any, between the characteristics of the problem-solving performance of subjects who construct a verbal explanation of a physical phenomenon and of those who don’t construct a verbal explanation?
Our study guides novice physics students through the same Newton’s Third Law lesson, while eliciting verbalization from one group (“Verbalizers”) and suppressing it in the other (“Non-verbalizers”). After completing the pre-test selection and the learning segment, only Verbalizers are prompted to explain what they learned. A post-test is administered to ascertain the difference, if any, in the performance of the two groups.
We found qualitative and quantitative support for the claim that verbalization is a means to improve problem-solving. In a comparison of improvement from pre-test to post-test Verbalizers demonstrate an advantage over Non-verbalizers (d=0.34). More striking is the difference in improvement between “accurate” Verbalizers and Non-verbalizers (d=0.58). A comparison of the correction of each individual Naïve Concept (14 in total) provides further support for this claim.
We observe certain cognitive mechanisms to be prominent in verbalization, namely generalization, attention filtering, and metacognitive control. We believe that generalization is responsible for the more successful shift of Verbalizers from solutions based on fragmented knowledge and surface features to solutions based on deeper, conceptual attributes of problems. We observe verbalization to be a successful attention-filtering device, though the same mechanism seems to create a counter-productive “overshadowing” effect at times. The case study of verbalizing Subject V8 suggests a potential solution to this problem.