Sophisticated epistemologies of physics versus high-stakes tests: How do elite high school students respond to competing influences about how to learn physics?

Yerdelen-Damar S., Elby A.

PHYSICAL REVIEW PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH, vol.12, no.1, 2016 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


This study investigates how elite Turkish high school physics students claim to approach learning physics when they are simultaneously (i) engaged in a curriculum that led to significant gains in their epistemological sophistication and (ii) subject to a high-stakes college entrance exam. Students reported taking surface (rote) approaches to learning physics, largely driven by college entrance exam preparation and therefore focused on algorithmic problem solving at the expense of exploring concepts and real-life examples more deeply. By contrast, in recommending study strategies to "Arzu," a hypothetical student who doesn't need to take a college entrance exam and just wants to understand physics deeply, the students focused more on linking concepts and real-life examples and on making sense of the formulas and concepts-deep approaches to learning that reflect somewhat sophisticated epistemologies. These results illustrate how students can epistemically compartmentalize, consciously taking different epistemic stances-different views of what counts as knowing and learning-in different contexts even within the same discipline.