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


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).

Document Type





scientific reasoning, problem solving

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Journal Title

Physical review physics education research