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Completed Project

Development of Intuition in Introductory Physics Problem Solving

Elam Coalson, Vassar College ’16 and Prof. Zosia Krusberg
Intuition in physics, though it received substantial attention in the the 1990s, has been under researched in recent years. In addition, previous discussion of intuition rested strictly on physical intuition. We believe there is an additional type of intuition, ‘problem-solving intuition,’ an understanding of the general shape of personal problem solving processes and easier avoidance of the pitfalls associated with it. This problem-solving intuition provides a pluripotent tool useful across many disciplines. By combining novel contemplative practices with a modified curriculum, based around an integrated ‘Toolbox’ approach and problem sets utilizing instant feedback, we hope to develop internal consciousness and problem-solving intuition. We propose a two stage process to accomplish this goal. The first stage would focus on recognizing physical intuition via anchoring concepts and ConcepTests. This physical intuition would form the base for the basic and derived tools, allowing more flexible problem solving and improved results in novel situations. The second stage would focus on meta-recognition of personal intuitive processes during problem solving. Instant feedback on the problem sets will harness the dopaminergic system for its role in learning and memory and for the ‘feeling of correctness’ it provides. An interrupting buzzer and corresponding contemplative practice will allow students to begin divining their internal states and intentionally shape their problem solving.