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2010 Summer Meeting

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

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Discovering the Law of Refraction
  Location: SS Ballroom DE
  Date: Wednesday, Aug.3
  Time: 8:10 AM -8:20 AM
  Author: Adriana Undreiu, University of Virginia's College at Wise
(276) 328-0203,
  Co-Author(s): Betty Adams , David Schuster
  Abstract: Refraction can serve as a wonderful example of a guided-discovery approach to a physics topic. Yet many textbook treatments remain the antithesis of this, despite the fact that physics is more than just a body of knowledge. Our inquiry-based approach involves exploring refraction behavior and tracing rays, then testing for possible relationships between incident and refracted ray directions, seeking a law that works at all angles. (A semi-chord representation for ray directions makes the task easier and less abstract). If a course has no lab, students still use graphic ray-direction data to seek a law, as a valuable inductive discovery problem. Note that conventional problems are purely deductive, missing an important facet of real science. We will contrast the approach, both epistemologically and pedagogically, with direct didactic presentations common in textbooks. Refraction has proved to be one of the most successful inquiry-based topics in our course for prospective teachers, for learning both the physics and the nature of scientific inquiry.
  Footnotes: Will be presented by Betty Adams.
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