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Success in introductory college physics requires students to acquire not only the content knowledge of physics, but also the skills to solve problems using this knowledge. At the University of Minnesota, attempts are being made to teach problem solving successfully. One such attempt has an instructor explicitly teaching a strategy that emphasizes the qualitative analysis of a problem before the manipulation of equations. This class provides a unique case for examining the development of problem-solving skills. This interpretive case study will examine the development of the problem solving ability of students in two college introductory physics courses where cooperative-group problem solving was used. In one class there was an explicit problem-solving strategy used. In the other class, no additional attempt was made to teach problem solving. In general, the students in the course who were taught an explicit problem-solving strategy tended to develop their skills faster, but did not score any higher than the students in the more traditionally taught course by the end of the year. However, the students in the explicit problem-solving course consistently performed better on the multiple choice concept tests given during the year.
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