The influence of content organization on student's cognitive structure in thermodynamics



Two different approaches to the content of thermodynamics were used in an introductory college physics course: one was the traditional organization found in most textbooks on the subject, the other was based on the learning theory of David Ausubel. The influence of these different content organizations on the student's cognitive structure was investigated using a word association test which was analysed through hierarchical clustering analysis. Research findings suggest that the approach based on Ausubel's theory influences the student's cognitive structure in such a way that their conceptual hierarchies are more coherent with the basic laws and the conceptual structure of the subject matter.