The contribution of computer science to the learning of computational physics

Leading team

Prof. Mordechai Ben-Ari

Prof. Michal Armoni

Postdocs and students

Rivka Taub

Summary

This research studies the learning process induced by a high-school computational science course (taught at the Davidson Institute for Science Education). It focuses on the interrelations between the disciplines of physics and mathematics and the discipline of CS in the context of such a course, and on the effects of the practice of CS on the learning process of physics. Specifically, we analyze the contribution of CS to a meaningful learning of physics ideas and concepts and characterize it. Findings indicate that learning physics in the context of CS has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, CS contributes to the learning of physics, and this contribution is visible in various phases of the learning process. For example, in constructing computer simulation of physical phenomena students actually represent their physics knowledge in another form. This concrete representation of their knowledge reflects it to them and thus serves as criteria which they can use to assess their knowledge. We also saw that in the context of the computational science course, CS fosters the acquirement of expert-like problem-solving strategies. On the other hand, learning more than one discipline at the same time may be confusing for the students. We conclude that a good idea would be to add adjusted scaffolding in order to strengthen the advantages and weaken the disadvantages of learning such an interdisciplinary course.

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