Assessing student written problem solutions: A problem-solving rubric with application to introductory physics

Jennifer L. Docktor, Jay Dornfeld, Evan Frodermann, Ken Heller, Leonardo Hsu, Koblar Alan Jackson, Andrew Mason, Qing X. Ryan, Jie Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Problem solving is a complex process valuable in everyday life and crucial for learning in the STEM fields. To support the development of problem-solving skills it is important for researchers and curriculum developers to have practical tools that can measure the difference between novice and expert problem-solving performance in authentic classroom work. It is also useful if such tools can be employed by instructors to guide their pedagogy. We describe the design, development, and testing of a simple rubric to assess written solutions to problems given in undergraduate introductory physics courses. In particular, we present evidence for the validity, reliability, and utility of the instrument. The rubric identifies five general problem-solving processes and defines the criteria to attain a score in each: organizing problem information into a Useful Description, selecting appropriate principles (Physics Approach), applying those principles to the specific conditions in the problem (Specific Application of Physics), using Mathematical Procedures appropriately, and displaying evidence of an organized reasoning pattern (Logical Progression).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number010130
JournalPhysical Review Physics Education Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 11 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partially supported by the University of Minnesota and the National Science Foundation under Grants No. DUE-0715615 and No. DUE-1226197. We wish to thank the School of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Minnesota for its cooperation in this study and the physics faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates who participated.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 authors. Published by the American Physical Society.


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