Using graphic organizers to develop and build upon prior knowledge

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


This study was implemented with a transitional-level Experimental Methods in Physics (EMP) class. The course was made up of students with individualized education plans and students who struggle with reading and/or math. The students often struggle with accessing and building upon prior knowledge between courses and within the EMP course. The major focus of this study addressed how the use of graphic organizers affects transitional-level student understanding of physics. Along with this main focus, the teacher also explored: how students' confidence levels are affected by the use of graphic organizers, how the use of graphic organizers affects students' ability to access and build upon prior knowledge, and how the use of graphic organizers affects the teacher's awareness of student progress. The methods used to answer these questions involved pre- and post-tests, interviews, reflective journals, student work samples, surveys, and daily quizzes. Two main graphic organizers were utilized to address these questions: the four corners and a diamond (FCD) organizer to aid in problem solving and the Six Step Topical Guide (SSTG) to aid in accessing and building on prior knowledge. After qualitative data analysis, it was determined that although the FCD organizer did not have a positive effect on all students, it is a good resource for students when starting out the in the problem solving process and for those who struggle with mathematical processes. It was also determined that the SSTG organizer is a strong resource for helping students draw upon their prior knowledge and build connections moving forward.




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