A COORDINATION CLASS ANALYSIS OF COLLEGE STUDENTS' JUDGMENTS ABOUT ANIMATED MOTION
Thomas C. Thaden-Koch, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska, 2003
Adviser: Robert G. Fuller
The coordination class construct was invented by diSessa and Sherin to clarify what it means to learn and use scientific concepts. A coordination class is defined to consist of readout strategies, which guide observation, and the causal net, which contains knowledge necessary for making inferences from observations. A coordination class, as originally specified, reliably extracts a certain class of information from a variety of situations. The coordination class construct is relatively new. To examine its utility, transcripts of interviews with college students were analyzed in terms of the coordination class construct.
In the interviews, students judged the realism of several computer animations depicting balls rolling on a pair of tracks. When shown animations with only one ball, students made judgments consistent with focusing on the ball's speed changes. Adding a second ball to each animation strongly affected judgments made by students taking introductory physics courses, but had a smaller effect on judgments made by students taking a psychology course. Reasoning was described in this analysis as the coordination of readouts about animations with causal net elements related to realistic motion. Decision-making was characterized both for individual students and for groups by the causal net elements expressed, by the types of readouts reported, and by the coordination processes involved.
The coordination class construct was found useful for describing the elements and processes of student decision-making, but little evidence was found to suggest that the students studied possessed reliable coordination classes. Students' causal nets were found to include several appropriate expectations about realistic motion. Several students reached judgments that appeared contrary to their expectations and reported mutually incompatible expectations. Descriptions of students' decision-making processes often included faulty readouts, or feedback loops in which causal net elements or readouts were adjusted. Comparisons of the interviewed groups' coordination were found to echo differences and similarities in animation judgments made by larger groups of students who were not interviewed.