An exploration of university physics students’ epistemological mindsets towards the understanding of physics equations

Daniel Domert, John Airey, Cedric Linder, Rebecca Lippmann Kung


Students’ attitudes and beliefs about learning have been shown to affect learning outcomes. This study explores how university physics students think about what it means to understand physics equations. The data comes from semi-structured interviews with students from three Swedish universities. The analysis follows a data-based, inductive approach to characterise students’ descriptions of what it means to understand equations in terms of epistemological mindsets (perceived critical attributes of a learning, application, or problem-solving situation that are grounded in epistemology). The results are given in terms of different components of students’ epistemological mindsets. Relations between individuals and sets of components as well as differences across various stages of students’ academic career are then explored. Pedagogical implications of the findings are discussed and tentative suggestions for university physics teaching are made.

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