Types and Qualities of Knowledge and their Relations to Problem Solving in Physics

  • Gunnar FriegeEmail author
  • Gunter Lind


Based on empirical findings and theoretical considerations related to the field of expertise research, the importance of “types” and “qualities” of knowledge in relation to problem solving in physics was investigated. The students (N =138) in this study had a level of competence that corresponds to an intensive beginner college course in physics. It was found that conceptual declarative knowledge and problem scheme knowledge are excellent predictors of problem solving performance. However, a detailed analysis shows that the first knowledge type is more typical for low achievers (novices) in physics problem solving whereas the second type is predominately used by high achievers (experts). Regarding types and qualities of knowledge and their relations to problem solving, the results of a multidimensional scaling analysis (MDS) indicate that two dimensions of knowledge can be distinguished. On the extreme limits of the first dimension, which could be named “problem solving relevance vs. structure of discipline”, are the types of knowledge and the qualities of knowledge, respectively. The second dimension of knowledge could be named “single knowledge elements vs. organised knowledge units”. There are types of knowledge as well as qualities of knowledge distributed along this dimension. Consequences of these results for improving physics education are discussed.

Key Words

domain-specific knowledge expertise research physics problem solving qualities of knowledge types of knowledge 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, J.R. (1983). The architecture of cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, J.R. (1987). Skill acquisition: compilation of weak-method problem solutions. Psychological Review, 94(2), 192–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, J.R., Greeno, J., Kline, P.Q. & Neves, D. (1981). Acquisition of problem-solving skill. In J.R. Anderson (Ed.), Cognitive skills and their acquisition (pp. 141–191). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  4. Chase, W.G. & Ericsson, K.A. (1981). Skilled memory. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Chase, W.G. & Simon, H.A. (1973). The mind’s eye in chess. In W.G. Chase (Ed.), Visual information processing (pp. 215–281). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  6. Chi, M.T.H., Glaser, R. & Rees, E. (1982). Expertise in problem solving. In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.), Advances in the psychology of human intelligence (pp. 7–75). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. De Jong, T. & Ferguson-Hessler, M.G.H. (1996). Types and qualities of knowledge. Educational Psychologist, 31(2), 105–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dreyfus, H.L. & Dreyfus, S.E. (1987). Künstliche Intelligenz. Reinbek: Rowohlt.Google Scholar
  9. Ericsson, K.A. & Kintsch, W. (1995). Long-term working memory. Psychological Review, 102(2), 211–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ericsson, K.A. & Smith, J. (1991). Prospects and limits of the empirical study of expertise: an introduction. In K.A. Ericsson & J. Smith (Eds.), Towards a general theory of expertise (pp. 1–38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Ericsson, K.A., Krampe, R.T. & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 102, 211–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fortmüller, R. (1991). Der Einfluß des Lernens auf die Bewältigung von Problemen: eine kognitionspsychologische Analyse des Problembereiches Lerntransfer (“The influence of learning on the coping of problems: a cognitive-psycological analysis of the problem area transfer of learning”). Wien: Manz.Google Scholar
  13. Friege, G. (2001). Wissen und Problemlösen–Eine empirische Untersuchung des wissenszentrierten Problemlösens im Gebiet der Elektrizitätslehre auf der Grundlage des Experten–Novizen-Vergleichs (Knowledge and problem solving–an empirical investigation of knowledge based problem solving in the domain electriciy on the base of expert–novice comparisons). Berlin: Logos.Google Scholar
  14. Friege, G. & Lind, G. (2006). Begriffsnetze und Wissensqualität. Teil 1 und 2 (Concept mapping and quality of knowledge. Part 1 and 2.). Physik und Didaktik in Schule und Hochschule (accepted).Google Scholar
  15. Hinsley, D.A., Hayes, J.R. & Simon, H.A. (1977). From words to equations: Meanings and representation in algebra word problems. In M.A. Just & P.A. Carpenter (Eds.), Cognitive processes in comprehension (pp. 89–106). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Kintsch, W. & Ericsson, K.A. (1996). Die kognitive Funktion des Gedächtnisses (“The cognitive function of the memory”). In D. Albert & K.-H. Stapf (Hrsg.), Enzyklopädie der Psychologie C/II/4 Gedächtnis (pp. 541–601). Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
  17. Krems, J. (1994). Wissensbasierte Urteilsbildung (Knowledge based formation of judgement). Bern: Huber.Google Scholar
  18. Lind, G. & Friege, G. (2003). Wissen und Problemlösen–eine Untersuchung zur Frage des “trägen Wissens (“Knowledge and problem solving–an investigation concerning the question of inert knowledge”). Empirische Pädagogik, 17(1), 57–86.Google Scholar
  19. Peuckert, J., Rothenhagen, A. & Sylvester, U. (1999). Concept Mapping–Lernen wir unsere Schüler kennen! Teil 2: Diagnose von Wissensentwicklungen mittels Concept Maps: ein Bericht aus der Praxis (Concept mapping–let’s get to know our pupils! Part 2: Diagnosis of development of knowledge via concept maps: a report of practical experience). Physik in der Schule, 37(2), 122–128.Google Scholar
  20. Posner, M.I. (1988). Introduction: What is to be an expert? In M.I.T. Chi, R. Glaser & M.J. Farr (Eds.), The nature of expertise (pp. XXIX–XXXVI). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  21. Salthouse, T.A. (1991). Expertise as the circumvention of human processing limitations. In K.A. Ericsson & J. Smith (Eds.), Towards a general theory of expertise (pp. 286–300). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Singley, M.K. & Anderson, J.R. (1989). The transfer of cognitive skill. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Van Lehn, K. (1989). Problem solving and cognitive skill acquisition. In M.L. Posner (Ed.), Foundations of cognitive science (pp. 527–579). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz Institute for Science Education (IPN)University of KielKielGermany

Personalised recommendations