Date of this Version
Moshman's discussion in his chapter from the Handbook of Child Psychology (1998) is very relevant to my work with young adults at UNL and to my interests in physics education. While there are many possible topics upon which I could write in this essay, one statement from this chapter in particular resonated with me and will serve as the starting point of my essay. This statement was as follows (emphasis added):
"Legal thinking may be defined as thinking aimed at determining what the law requires or forbids. It is often argued that legal education should be aimed at teaching a student how to "think like a lawyer, " that is, to engage in legal reasoning." (p. 955)
This statement stood out to me because this is exactly what has been frequently stated as the reason that many students (particularly those pursuing careers in the biosciences and health sciences) are required to take introductory physics. In fact, I believe many bioscience faculty, advisors, and professional school staff, who are unfamiliar with cognitive development, would be entirely comfortable with the following analogous statement.
"Physics thinking may be defined as thinking aimed at solving scientific problems. It is often argued that physics education should be aimed at teaching a student how to "think like a physicist," that is, to engage in scientific reasoning." (p. 955)
If you are willing to accept that this is a fair statement about the beliefs commonly held about the introductory physics course, then I think that a number of related questions and issues immediately come to mind and call for further discussion. Three of these questions are discussed below.