Learning of content knowledge and development of scientific reasoning ability: A cross culture comparison

Am. J. Phys. 77, 1118 (2009)http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2976334

Electronic mail: lbao@mps.ohio-state.edu  see full paper

We report the results of our study of the connections between students’ learning of physics content knowledge and the development of general scientific reasoning abilities. In particular, we seek to determine whether and to what extent content learning affects the development of general reasoning abilities. Pre-college-instruction data of first-year college students in the United States and China were collected using the FCI, BEMA, and Lawson’s classroom test of scientific reasoning. We find that the rigorous learning of physics knowledge in middle and high schools has made a significant impact on the ability of students in China to solve physics problems, but this knowledge does not seem to have a direct effect on their general scientific reasoning ability, which is determined to be at the same level as that of the students in the United States.