Physics

Interactional Processes for Stabilizing Conceptual Coherences in Physics

Author/Presenter: 
Rachel E. Scherr
Lead Organization(s): 
Year: 
2012
Short Description: 

Research in student knowledge and learning of science has typically focused on explaining conceptual change. Recent research, however, documents the great degree to which student thinking is dynamic and context-sensitive, implicitly calling for explanations not only of change but also of stability. In other words, when a pattern of student reasoning is sustained in specific moments and settings, what mechanisms contribute to sustaining it? We characterize student understanding and behavior in terms of multiple local coherences in that they may be variable yet still exhibit local stabilities. We attribute stability in local conceptual coherences to real-time activities that sustain these coherences. For example, particular conceptual understandings may be stabilized by the linguistic features of a worksheet question or by feedback from the students’ spatial arrangement and orientation. We document a group of university students who engage in multiple local conceptual coherences while thinking about motion during a collaborative learning activity. As the students shift their thinking several times, we describe mechanisms that may contribute to local stability of their reasoning and behavior.

Conserving Energy in Physics and Society: Creating an Integrated Model of Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Author/Presenter: 
Abigail R. Daane
Stamatis Vokos
Rachel E. Scherr
Lead Organization(s): 
Year: 
2012
Short Description: 

The second law of thermodynamics is typically not a central focus either in introductory university physics textbooks or in national standards for secondary education. However, the second law is a key part of a strong conceptual model of energy, especially for connecting energy conservation to energy degradation and the irreversibility of processes. We are developing a conceptual model of the second law as it relates to energy, with the goal of creating models and representations that link energy, the second law, and entropy in a meaningful way for learners analyzing real-life energy scenarios. We expect this model to help learners better understand how their everyday experiences relate to formal physics analyses. Our goal is to develop tools for use with elementary and secondary teachers and secondary and university students.

Representing Energy. II. Energy tracking representations

Author/Presenter: 
Rachel E. Scherr
Hunter G. Close
Eleanor W. Close
Stamatis Vokos
Year: 
2012
Short Description: 

The Energy Project at Seattle Pacific University has developed representations that embody the substance metaphor and support learners in conserving and tracking energy as it flows from object to object and changes form. Such representations enable detailed modeling of energy dynamics in complex physical processes. We assess student learning by means of representations that learners invent to explain energy dynamics in specific real-world scenarios. Refined versions of these learner-generated representations have proven valuable for our own teaching, physics understanding, and research.

Representing Energy. I. Representing a Substance Ontology for Energy

Author/Presenter: 
Rachel E. Scherr
Hunter G. Close
Sarah B. McKagan
Stamatis Vokos
Year: 
2012
Short Description: 

The nature of energy is not typically an explicit topic of physics instruction. Nonetheless, verbal and graphical representations of energy articulate models in which energy is conceptualized as a quasimaterial substance, a stimulus, or a vertical location. We argue that a substance ontology for energy is particularly productive in developing understanding of energy transfers and transformations. We analyze classic representations of energy—bar charts, pie charts, and others—to determine the energy ontologies that are implicit in those representations, and thus their affordances for energy learning. We find that while existing representations partially support a substance ontology for energy and thus the learning goal of energy conservation, they have limited utility for tracking the flow of energy among objects.

Interactive Heat Transfer Simulations for Everyone

Heat transfer is widely taught in secondary Earth science and physics. Researchers have identified many misconceptions related to heat and temperature. These misconceptions primarily stem from hunches developed in everyday life (though the confusions in terminology often worsen them). Interactive computer simulations that visualize thermal energy, temperature distribution, and heat transfer may provide a straightforward method for teaching and learning these concepts.

Author/Presenter: 
Xie, Charles
Year: 
2012
Resource Type: 
Publication

Common Misconceptions about Heat and Insulation

The concepts of energy and heat are challenging for elementary students. Because young students are not ready to delve into kinetic theory and molecular motion, much of the explanation of heat and energy transfer is inaccessible to them. In addition, the use of the word "energy" in popular culture may interfere with the development of scientific understanding. Nevertheless, elementary students are capable of exploring heat through observations and qualitative, developmentally appropriate explanations.

Author/Presenter: 
Fries-Gaither, Jessica
Year: 
2009

Interactive Heat Transfer Simulations for Everyone

Author(s): 
Xie, Charles
Contact Info: 
Publication Type: 
Journal
Year: 
2012
Month: 
April
In press?: 
In Press
Resource Format: 

Heat transfer is widely taught in secondary Earth science and physics. Researchers have identified many misconceptions related to heat and temperature. These misconceptions primarily stem from hunches developed in everyday life (though the confusions in terminology often worsen them). Interactive computer simulations that visualize thermal energy, temperature distribution, and heat transfer may provide a straightforward method for teaching and learning these concepts.

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