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Abstract Title: How Abstract is Abstract? Signs, Salience, and Meaning in Physics
Abstract: External representations, including pictures, graphs, text, gestures, and utterances, are key components of all curricular materials in physics. Such representations play a key role in cognitive function, particularly insofar as individuals interpret the meanings of and apply meanings to these representations. We have proposed a model of how individuals can make meaning of and with external representations through layered analogies and applied this model to learning abstract ideas in physics, i.e. EM waves. [1] [2] We extend this model in two ways. (1) We distinguish individuals' interpretations of representations, which can be highly variable and fleeting, from the physics communities' agreed upon interpretations, which are more stable and coherent. (2) Two characteristics of representation use emerge: abstraction based on the community consensus of concepts and salience based on readily accessible pieces of knowledge for an individual.

1. N.S. Podolefsky & N.D. Finkelstein, Phys. Rev. ST - Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 010109 (2007)
2. N.S. Podolefsky & N.D. Finkelstein, Phys. Rev. ST - Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 020104 (2007)
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
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Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Noah S. Podolefsky
University of Colorado at Boulder
Department of Physics
390 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
Phone: 303-641-8217
and Co-Presenter(s)
Noah D. Finkelstein