npsm 새물리 New Physics : Sae Mulli

pISSN 0374-4914 eISSN 2289-0041


Research Paper

New Phys.: Sae Mulli 2020; 70: 466-480

Published online May 29, 2020

Copyright © New Physics: Sae Mulli.

Factors Triggering Thought Experiments in Small Group Physics Problem-solving Activities

Hartono BANCONG1, Jinwoong SONG2*

1Department of Physics Education, Universitas Muhammadiyah Makassar, Makassar 90221, Indonesia

2Center for Educational Research, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea


Received: February 4, 2020; Revised: March 26, 2020; Accepted: April 2, 2020

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study sought to identify the factors that trigger the emergence of thought experiments when students interact with each other in their groups to solve problem. This study had 12 participants, six master’s students and six undergraduate students in three different universities in Indonesia. The participants were divided into three groups so that each group consisted of four students. Small-group physics problem-solving activities were used for observing the factors that encourage students to construct thought experiments. The results showed five factors that encourage students to visualize imaginary worlds as an initial step in constructing thought experiments: conflicting ideas, similar ideas, support from experienced people, students’ bodily knowledge, and students’ imaginary visual knowledge. This indicates that thought experiments can occur not only because of students’ personal knowledge (imaginary visual knowledge and bodily knowledge) but also because of interactions among students in a group to solve a problem (conflicting ideas, similar ideas, and support from experienced people). Therefore, we think that placing students into a group is an effective way not only to encourage students to perform thought experiments by utilizing each other’s resources and skills but also to increase social interaction and support diversity.

Keywords: Factors, Thought experiments, Problem-solving, Small-group, Physics education

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