Effects of Attentional Cueing on Novice
Problem Solvers

Tanner J. Stevens

,

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My project investigated how students react to visual cueing when
solving introductory physics problems.

Previous studies have suggested that students who answer visual
problems correctly with the right

conceptual understanding tend to look at certain areas more
frequently, while students with incorrect

conceptual understanding look at other areas of the
problem. Our goal is to cue students to
look in areas

where most “expert” problem solvers look while tracking the
students’ eye movements to see whether we

can help students activate prior knowledge, solve the problem
and gain a better understanding of the

concepts
used.

Students were asked to solve conceptual physics problems with
highly visual components while we tracked

their eye movements.
There were four groups of problems, each being on a problem from a
previous study

which showed
large differences in eye movements between correct and incorrect students. After solving each

problem, the students were asked to explain their
reasoning. If the student answered
incorrectly or gave

incorrect reasoning, they were shown a similar problem. Students in the cued condition saw colored
shapes

flash across the screen in the similar problems, while students
in the non-cued condition saw the problem as

normal. Once the student
answered correctly with correct reasoning, or if they didn’t answer correctly
after

three similar problems, students were shown a transfer problem,
involving the same concept but in a

different context, to determine whether the student could still
apply the reasoning to other situations.

Answers for all problems were recorded, and each interview was
video recorded and audio recorded for

qualitative analysis on students’ explanations.

I first looked at students’ accuracy on the transfer
problems. Over all problems, students in
the cueing

condition correctly solved the transfer problem with correct
reasoning 34.4% of the time, while students in

the non-cueing condition gave correct answers and reasoning
25.9% of the time. Students verbal
responses

were also analyzed and categorized into different mental models
used to solve each problem. It was found
in

the cued group of students that the average number of changes in
mental model per problem group was

higher than the non-cued group in three of the four problem
groups. More in-depth data analysis will
be

available soon in my final presentation below.

I am currently finalizing a proposal to present my project at
the National Association of Research in Science

Teaching (NARST) Annual Conference. If my proposal is accepted, I will complete
and present a full paper

at the conference in Orlando in April, 2011. Wish me luck!
Unfortunately, since the review process is

double-blind, I will not be posting my paper here. I have posted my final presentation slides
below.