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2011 AAPT Summer Meeting
July 30-August 3, 2011
Omaha, Nebraska

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Scaffolding Students' Development of Mental Models for Pulleys Systems
  Location: HC 3023 & 3023A
  Date: Monday, Aug.1
  Time: 9:00 AM -9:10 AM
  Author: Amy Rouinfar, Kansas State University
  Co-Author(s): Adrian M. Madsen , Tram Do Ngoc Hoang , N. Sanjay Rebello , Sadhana Puntambekar
  Abstract: Research has shown that students have several misconceptions about pulleys. To construct a mental model of how pulley systems work, students must elicit and confront these misconceptions. We report on a study with students in a conceptual physics laboratory investigating pulley systems using physical or virtual manipulatives. Written materials guided students through a sequence of activities designed to scaffold their model construction process. The activity sequences facilitated students' sense making by requiring them to make predictions about different pulley systems and testing these predictions by building and comparing different systems. At the end of each of the two weeks of the activity, students were given the task of designing the best pulley system for lifting a piano. We investigate the ways in which students use the manipulatives while navigating scaffolding activities and how the students' mental model development of pulley systems compares between the physical and virtual treatments.
  Footnotes: This work is supported in part by U.S. Dept. of Education IES grant award R305A080507.
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