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

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Two Right Answers: The Difficulty of Reconciling Competing Physics Commitments
  Location: HC 3023 & 3023A
  Date: Tuesday, Aug.2
  Time: 8:50 AM -9:00 AM
  Author: Benedikt Harrer, University of Maine
  Co-Author(s): Rachel E. Scherr , Michael C Wittmann , Brian W Frank , Hunter G Close
  Abstract: In group settings, we sometimes see learners commit to arguments that, although seemingly contradictory, are both correct and appropriate. Groups may have difficulties reconciling these competing commitments. In a professional development course at SPU, secondary teachers are discussing the energy flow in a refrigerator to find out how refrigerators work. While one teacher shows commitment to the idea that refrigerators move heat from a relatively cold compartment to a hotter environment, two others appear committed to the second law of thermodynamics which states that heat flows from hot to cold. Video records of the discussion show that the teachers recognize the disparity of their commitments but do not spontaneously reconcile the contradiction. Our analysis shows why all group members are right to believe in their respective commitments, points out difficulties they have reconciling the contradicting commitments, and explores possible causes for these difficulties.
  Footnotes: Supported in part by NSF DRL 0822342.
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