Learning of Content Knowledge and Development of Scientific Reasoning Ability: A Cross Culture Comparison
Lei Bao, Kai Fang, Tianfang Cai, Jing Wang, Lijia Yang, Lili Cui, Jing Han, Lin Ding, and Ying Luo
Student content knowledge and general reasoning abilities are two important areas in education practice and research. However, there hasn't been much work in physics education that clearly documents the possible interactions between content learning and the development of general reasoning abilities. In this paper, we report one study of a systematic research to investigate the possible interactions between students' learning of physics content knowledge and the development of general scientific reasoning abilities. Specifically, this study seeks to answer the research question of whether and to what extent content learning may affect the development of general reasoning abilities. College entrance testing data of freshman college students in both USA and China were collected using three standardized tests, FCI, BEMA, and Lawson's Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning (Lawson Test). The results suggest that years of rigorous training of physics knowledge in middle and high schools have made significant impact on Chinese students' ability in solving physics problems, while such training doesn't seem to have direct effects on their general ability in scientific reasoning, which was measured to be at the same level as that of the students in USA. Details of the curriculum structures in the education systems of USA and China are also compared to provide a basis for interpreting the assessment data.
To appear in AJP.