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EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education
Volume 13, Issue 6 (June 2017), pp. 2005-2038

DOI: 10.12973/eurasia.2017.01211a

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Research Article

Published online on May 09, 2017

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K-means Clustering to Study How Student Reasoning Lines Can Be Modified by a Learning Activity Based on Feynman’s Unifying Approach

Onofrio Rosario Battaglia, Benedetto Di Paola, Claudio Fazio


Research in Science Education has shown that often students need to learn how to identify differences and similarities between descriptive and explicative models.

The development and use of explicative skills in the field of thermal science has always been a difficult objective to reach. A way to develop analogical reasoning is to use in Science Education unifying conceptual frameworks.

In this paper we describe a 20-hour workshop focused on Feynman’s Unifying Approach and the two-level system. We measure its efficacy in helping undergraduate chemical engineering students explain phenomena by applying an explanatory model. Contexts involve systems for which a process is activated by thermally overcoming a well-defined potential barrier. A questionnaire containing six open-ended questions was administered to the students before instruction. A second one, similar but focused on different physical content was administered after instruction. Responses were analysed using k-means Cluster Analysis and students’ inferred lines of reasoning about the analysed phenomena were studied. We conclude that students reasoning lines seem to have clearly evolved to explicative ones and it is reasonable to think that the Feynman Unifying Approach has favoured this change.

Keywords: Boltzmann Factor, evaluation, quantitative data analysis in education, k-means clustering, thermally-activated phenomena

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