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Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism
written by Jing Li
Electricity and magnetism are important topics in physics. Research shows that students have many common difficulties in understanding concepts related to electricity and magnetism. However, research to improve students' understanding of electricity and magnetism is limited compared to introductory mechanics. This thesis explores issues related to students' common difficulties in learning some topics in electricity and magnetism and how these difficulties can be reduced by research-based learning tutorials. We investigated students' difficulties in solving problems involving light bulbs and equations involving circuit elements. We administered multiple choice questions and essay questions to many classes and conducted individual interviews with a subset of students. Based on these investigations, we provide suggestions to improve learning. We also developed and evaluated five tutorials on Coulomb's law, Gauss's law and the superposition principle to help students build a robust knowledge structure and firm understanding of these concepts. Students' performance on the corresponding pre- and post-tests indicates that these tutorials effectively improved their understanding. We also designed a Magnetism Conceptual Survey (MCS) that can help instructors probe students' understanding of magnetism concepts. The validity and reliability of this MCS is discussed. The performance of students from different groups (e.g. female students vs. male students, calculus-based students vs. algebra-based students) was compared. We also compare the MCS and the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM) on common topics.
University: University of Pittsburgh
Academic Department:  Physics and Astronomy
Pages 259
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education - Applied Research
- Active Learning
= Problem Solving
- Instructional Material Design
= Tutorial
Education - Basic Research
- Alternative Conceptions
- Assessment
= Conceptual Assessment
= Instruments
Electricity & Magnetism
- Capacitance
= Capacitors
- DC Circuits
= Circuit Analysis
- Electric Fields and Potential
= Electric Field
= Gauss' Law
- Electrostatics
= Coulomb's Law
- General
- Magnetic Fields and Forces
- Resistance
- Graduate/Professional
- Lower Undergraduate
- Reference Material
= Thesis/Dissertation
PER-Central Types Intended Users Ratings
- PER Literature
- Thesis/Dissertation
- Researchers
- Learners
- Educators
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© 2012 Dr. Jing Li
Coulomb's law, Gauss's law, Magnetism, circuit elements, conceptual understanding, physics education
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created April 20, 2012 by JING LI
Record Updated:
July 5, 2012 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 20, 2012
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AIP Format
J. Li, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2012, WWW Document, (http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11789&DocID=2647).
J. Li, Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2012, <http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11789&DocID=2647>.
APA Format
Li, J. (2012, March 20). Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2012). Retrieved January 18, 2017, from http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11789&DocID=2647
Chicago Format
Li, Jing. "Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism." Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2012. http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11789&DocID=2647 (accessed 18 January 2017).
MLA Format
Li, Jing. "Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism." Ph.D.. 20 Mar. 2012. University of Pittsburgh, 2012. 18 Jan. 2017 <http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11789&DocID=2647>.
BibTeX Export Format
@phdthesis{ Author = "Jing Li", Title = {Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism}, School = {University of Pittsburgh}, Type = {Ph.D.}, Month = {March}, Year = {2012} }
Refer Export Format

%A Jing Li
%T Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism
%R Ph.D.
%D March 20, 2012
%P 259
%I University of Pittsburgh
%U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11789&DocID=2647
%O Physics and Astronomy
%O application/pdf
%O Ph.D.

EndNote Export Format

%0 Thesis
%A Li, Jing
%D March 20, 2012
%T Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism
%B Physics and Astronomy
%I University of Pittsburgh
%P 259
%8 March 20, 2012
%9 Ph.D.
%U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=11789&DocID=2647

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Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism:

References Key Document Magnetism Conceptual Survey

The Magnetostatics Conceptual Survey, appendix E of Li's thesis, is provided separately in a password protected file to help ensure its integrity.

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