program_wb_i - page 83

July 26–30, 2014
Monday afternoon
Expanding our knowledge of student difficulties in advanced undergradu-
ate physics courses is essential if we are to develop effective instructional
materials. This poster focuses specifically on student difficulties in
upper-division electromagnetism. We present quantitative data based on
responses from students at multiple institutions to a research-based con-
ceptual assessment developed at the University of Colorado Boulder (the
Colorado UppeR-division ElectrodyNamics Test, or CURrENT). We also
present qualitative results from interviews with individual students, and
observations of student difficulties during lectures and optional homework
help sessions. Common difficulties include, but are not limited to, relating
the vectors appearing in Maxwell’s equations in integral form to specific
geometries; understanding the fields associated with an infinite solenoid;
and interpreting diagrams and notation for reflection and transmission
PST1C15: 8:30-9:15 p.m. Introductory Physics Students: Under-
standing of Electric Potential in DC Circuits
Poster – Ane Leniz, Donostia Physics Education Research Group, University
of the Basque Country, EHU-UPV Plaza Europa 1 Donostia-San Sebastian,
20018 Basque Country, Spain;
Kristina Zuza, Jenaro Guisasola, Donostia PER Group
Electricity is an area of physics that students find significantly difficult to
understand. In many introductory physics courses on electricity, the core
of the theory of electric circuits is a set of simple DC circuit laws, which
relate algebraically voltages, currents, and resistance. These laws are usually
related to the Drude model of electric current. Previous research shows
that relations between electrostatics and electrodynamics are still a source
of teaching-learning problems in the first years of university. Research
shows that students do not relate concepts studied in electrostatics with the
phenomena that occur in electric circuits. This study investigates how stu-
dents from two different universities and countries understand the relation
between potential difference and current in a context close to DC circuits.
The results show evidence that in current transitional situations students
don’t usually use potential difference to perform the analysis. They show
deficiencies in the explanatory model of charge movement.
PST1C16: 9:15-10 p.m. Student Learning of Critical Circuits
Concepts in Physics and Engineering*
Poster – Kevin Van De Bogart, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469; kevin.
MacKenzie Stetzer, University of Maine
As part of a new effort to investigate the learning and teaching of concepts
in thermodynamics and electronics that are integral to both undergradu-
ate physics and engineering programs, we have been examining student
learning in electrical engineering and physics courses on circuits and
electronics. Due to the considerable overlap in the content coverage, we
have been able to administer the same (or similar) questions to students in
both disciplines. A major goal of this work is to investigate the impact of
disciplinary context on the nature of student understanding, including the
prevalence of specific difficulties. This talk will focus on foundational con-
cepts (e.g., loading) that are critical to the design and analysis of circuits in
all courses studied. Preliminary results will be presented and implications
for instruction will be discussed.
*This work has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation under
Grant Nos. DUE-1323426 and DUE-0962805.
PST1C17: 8:30-9:15 p.m. Assessing Gender Differences in
Students’ Understanding of Magnetism
Poster – Chandralekha Singh, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260;
Jing Li, University of Pittsburgh
We investigate gender differences in students’ difficulties with concepts re-
lated to magnetism using a multiple-choice test whose reliability and valid-
ity have been substantiated earlier. We also conduct individual interviews
with a subset of students to get a better understanding of the rationale
behind their responses. We find that females performed significantly worse
PST1C11: 8:30-9:15 p.m. What Resources Do Physics Experts
Use When Solving Novel Problems?
Poster – Darrick C. Jones, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8019;
AJ Richards, Eugenia Etkina, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Gorazd Planinsic, University of Ljubljana
A central goal of physics education is to help students learn to think like a
physicist when solving problems. But what exactly does it mean to think
like a physicist? What do physicists do that allows them to successfully
solve and understand complex, novel physics problems? We will present
how we have searched for an answer to this question by using the resources
framework to analyze videotaped records of physics experts solving novel
problems. By focusing on moments when physics experts reasoned towards
a deeper understanding of the problem and dissecting their discourse
during these moments, we identify resources that physics experts activate
as they make progress through the problem solving process. We search for
patterns to identify resources with epistemological underpinnings which
help experts make progress towards understanding a novel phenomenon.
We discuss how frequently various resources are used and the implications
these findings have on physics instruction.
PST1C12: 9:15-10 p.m. How Students Use Visual Representa-
tions When Solving Charge Distribution Problems
Poster – Alanna Pawlak, Michigan State University, Biomedical and Physical
Sciences, East Lansing, MI 48824-1046;
Leanne Doughty, Marcos Caballero, Michigan State University
In physics, we create simplified models of physical systems, which can
be presented visually through the use of representations. Often, multiple
representations are available to illustrate different aspects of the same
model. For example, the area surrounding a charge distribution could be
visualized as being filled with electric field vectors, electric field lines, or
equipotential lines. While each representation appears different superfi-
cially, it is important that students recognize that each illustrates the same
model. Additionally, students should be able to determine when a particu-
lar representation may be most productive, depending on the aspect of the
model they wish to study. We observed students in small groups complet-
ing an activity requiring them to choose one of the previously mentioned
representations in order to answer questions about charge distributions
and justify their choice. We present results from analysis of a small number
of videos and the emerging strategy for future investigations.
PST1C13: 8:30-9:15 p.m. Teaching Fluids to IPLS Students via
Microscopic Representations
Poster – Daniel E. Young, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03820;
Dawn C. Meredith, University of New Hampshire
For introductory life science students, fluid dynamics is a topic that is
important, relevant to biology, and yet difficult to understand conceptu-
ally. Our study focuses on probing understanding of pressure differentials,
vacuums, and Bernoulli’s equation which underpin ideas of fluid flow.
Data was collected from written assessments and laboratory exercises in
addition to teaching interviews, and was analyzed using the frameworks of
resource theory and mechanistic reasoning to look for productive student
ideas such as a microscopic viewpoint and gradient driven flow. We inves-
tigated whether a multiple-scale view of matter is useful for students when
constructing models of pressure and fluid flow and will present both our
model and a qualitative analysis of student work.
PST1C14: 9:15-10 p.m. Investigating Student Difficulties in
Upper-Division Electromagnetism
Poster – Charles Baily, University of St. Andrews, School of Physics and
Astronomy, St, Andrews, Fife, KY16 9SS UK;
Cecilia Astolfi, University of St. Andrews
Qing Ryan, Steven Pollock, University of Colorado
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