Examining the Relationship of Scientific Reasoning with Physics Problem Solving

Carol Fabby


Recent research suggests students with more formal reasoning patterns are more proficient learners. However, little research has been done to establish a relationship between scientific reasoning and problem solving abilities by novices. In this exploratory study, we compared scientific reasoning abilities of students enrolled in a college level introductory physics course for their ability to solve problems requiring different levels of conceptual understanding. Reasoning abilities were measured by Lawson's Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning and students’ ability to correctly solve different levels of problem on examinations was measured by the Taxonomy in Physics Problems. Results indicate that students with higher reasoning abilities perform equally well across problem levels while students of lower reasoning abilities struggle in solving problems that depend on higher conceptual understanding. This suggests that students with lower reasoning abilities may depend more readily on basic recall of facts and simple procedures to solve problems.


scientific reasoning; problem solving; conceptual learning; undergraduate

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JSTEM. ISSN: 1557-5284