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Department of Physics

Physics Department
116 Cardwell Hall
1228 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
Manhattan, KS 66506-2601

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Epistemological Frames and Physics Conditions

Matthew Mikota, DePaul University, Mathematics & Physics Major
Mentored by Dr. J.T. Laverty

Assessments are crucial to education in the development of curricula and instruction as well as for assessing our learning goals. Recently, reports have elevated scientific practices to the same level of importance and emphasis as core ideas of physics. The Three-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol was released to evaluate if assessments satisfied these new goals. Our questions were developed based on this protocol and focused on the scientific practice of developing and using models based on concepts from the introductory physics sequence. We analyzed how the inclusion of a "physics condition", a condition written using physics terminology which corresponds to the real world situation occurring, affects the Students' Epistemological frames.

We used the frames given by Bing and Redish in figure 1 of Analyzing Problem solving using math in Physics:Epistemological Framing Via warrants. Bing and Redish found that mastering epistemological skills was necessary for complex problem solving in physics. Using thematic analysis we analyzed the transition of students between epistemological frames throughout the problem. From this study, we claim a "physics condition" provokes a frame shift for students. The following diagram shows the frame shifts we noticed as a result of this.

A diagram demonstrating the various frame shifts observed with thickness representing the number of students who completed this frame shift.

Figure 1. A diagram demonstrating the various frame shifts observed with thickness representing the number of students who completed this frame shift.

We still need to further study the reasoning behind these frame shifts. However, we have found assessment questions with a "physics condition" provoke frame shifts which have shown to be an essential component of complex physics problem solving. This provides us the capability to give students opportunities to think about physics in multiple ways, as well as information about students' processes. 


T. J. Bing and E. F. Redish, Analyzing problem solving using math in physics: Epistemological framing via warrants, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 020108 (2009). 


I would like to thank the KSUPER Group, specifically, Lydia Bender, Christopher Hass, Hien Khong, and Amali Priyanka Jambuge for their assistance and guidance throughout the research process. I would like to thank J.T Laverty for his guidance and support throughout this process. Also, I want to thank the NSF for funding this research opportunity.

Final Presentation 

National Science Foundation

This program is funded by the National Science Foundation through grant number PHY-1757778. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.