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In problem-solving situations, the contextual features of the problems affect student reasoning. Using Newton's third law as an example, we study the role of context in students' uses of alternative conceptual models. We have identified four contextual features that are frequently used by students in their reasoning. Using these results, a multiple-choice survey was developed to probe the effects of the specific contextual features on student reasoning. Measurements with this instrument show that different contextual features can affect students' conceptual learning in different ways. We compare student data from different populations and instructions and discuss the implications.
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