The ability of adult students to reason on the basis of the control of variables was the subject of an extended investigation. This paper describes the part of the study that focused on the reasoning required to decide whether or not a given variable influences the behavior of a system. The participants were undergraduates taking introductory Physics and K-8 teachers studying physics and physical science in inservice institutes and workshops. Although most of the students recognized the need to control variables, many had significant difficulty with the underlying reasoning. The results indicate serious shortcomings in the preparation of future scientists and in the education of a scientifically literate citizenry. There are also strong implications for the professional development of teachers, many of whom are expected to teach control of variables to young students.
American Journal of Physics
Required Publisher's Statement
2008 Copyright. American Association of Physics Teachers
American Journal of Physics 76, 163 (2008); doi: 10.1119/1.2805235
Boudreaux, Andrew; Shaffer, Peter S.; Heron, Paula R. L.; and McDermott, Lillian C., "Student Understanding of Control of Variables: Deciding Whether or Not a Variable Influences the Behavior of a System" (2008). Physics & Astronomy. 4.