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2010 Summer Meeting

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

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EB03:

Students' Views of Macroscopic and Microscopic Energy in Physics and Biology
  Location: HC 3023 & 3023A
  Date: Tuesday, Aug.2
  Time: 1:35 PM -1:45 PM
  Author: Benjamin Dreyfus
Department of Physics, University of Maryland - College Park
917-821-2405, dreyfus@umd.edu
  Co-Author(s): Edward F. Redish , Jessica Watkins
  Abstract: Energy concepts are fundamental across the sciences, yet these concepts can be fragmented along disciplinary boundaries, rather than integrated into a coherent whole. To teach physics effectively to biology students, we need to understand students' disciplinary perspectives. We present interview data from an undergraduate student who displays multiple stances toward the concept of energy. At times he views energy in macroscopic contexts as a separate entity from energy in microscopic (particularly biological) contexts, while at other times he uses macroscopic physics phenomena as productive analogies for understanding energy in the microscopic biological context, and he reasons about energy transformations between the microscopic and macroscopic scales. This case study displays preliminary evidence for the context dependence of students' ability to translate energy concepts across scientific disciplines. This points to challenges that must be taken into account in developing curricula for biology students that integrate physics and biology concepts.
  Footnotes: None
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