The value of using different types of physics problems to help students become proficient problem-solvers

Melanie Good, Emily Marshman, Edit Yerushalmi, Chandralekha Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During a professional development course for graduate student teaching assistants (TAs), a question was asked-would you use a context-rich problem (presented via a narrative set in a real-world context, not broken into parts and sometimes even without an explicit question) in an introductory physics class, and if so, how? One graduate TA’s sentiment appeared to resonate with most of the other TAs in the class, ‘I will not use this at all.’. Though more experienced in teaching, physics faculty often share this point of view-less than half of interviewed faculty members indicated they appreciated yet would not use such a problem. But if we want students to become proficient problem-solvers, should we not employ a comprehensive toolbox containing a wide variety of problem-types? Is there not a place for a context-rich problem in our teaching or are we overlooking the benefits and utility of problems such as these? Evidence continues to suggest that TAs and faculty alike both appear to be reluctant to adopt some types of physics problems in their teaching, while relying almost completely on just a couple types of problems. Based upon education research data, we believe it is time to broaden those horizons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number015018
JournalPhysics Education
Issue number1
Early online date27 Nov 2023
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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