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PERC 2018 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Identifying Conceptual Resources for Understanding Physics
Abstract: Historically, research identifying student ideas in physics has focused on what student misunderstandings, misconceptions, or difficulties. This work has supported the development of curriculum that elicits and addresses these misunderstandings and has informed instructors' knowledge of student ideas. More recently, research has begun to systematically identify student conceptual resources for understanding physics -- that is, the productive "beginnings" of physics that students bring to bear as they learn. This session showcases some of this research, highlighting a range of samples (K-12 students, university students, and teacher-learners) and physics topics (thermal physics, energy, electricity and magnetism, and pressure).
Abstract Type: Poster Symposium
Session Time: Parallel Sessions Cluster II
Room: Grand Central

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: B. Frank
Middle Tennessee State University
and Co-Presenter(s)
Moderators: B. Frank and L. Goodhew
Presenters: C. Alvarado, B. Brizuela, Y. Cao, A. Daane, B. Geller, L. Goodhew, D. Meredith, A. D. Robertson, H. Sabo, M. C. Wittmann, D. Young

Symposium Specific Information

Presentation 1 Title: Learner Resources for Thinking about Free Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
Presentation 1 Authors: Benjamin Geller and Abigail Daane
Presentation 1 Abstract: Free energy is an important bridge between (i) canonical representations of thermodynamics that are found in typical introductory physics classrooms and (ii) descriptions of the second law of thermodynamics frequently encountered in biological and sociopolitical contexts. In this poster, we explore resources that two groups of learners have for reasoning about free energy and the second law of thermodynamics: Introductory Physics for Life Science (IPLS) undergraduate students and K-12 teachers in a professional development workshop. We also address some of the challenges that learners face in trying to reconcile the essential features of free energy with what they have learned about thermodynamics in introductory physics.
Presentation 2 Title: Student cognitive resources for understanding pressure in fluids
Presentation 2 Authors: Daniel E. Young and Dawn Meredith
Presentation 2 Abstract: We present examples of life science students' use of cognitive resources to reason about pressure in fluids on two complex conceptual tasks: comparing pressure for two different gases and lack of motion in a two straw system. To help us analyze student talk, we propose indicators of in-the-moment productivity. These indicators can also be used by instructors as they guide students in the classroom, as an alternative to looking simply for correctness of student answers.
Presentation 3 Title: Using inconsistencies in survey question responses to identify resources
Presentation 3 Authors: Michael C. Wittmann and Carolina Alvarado
Presentation 3 Abstract: As part of a larger project to investigate teacher and student reasoning about energy at the middle school level, we developed a multiple-choice survey that was answered by over 1000 students. Some of the questions were very similar to each other in terms of the physics, but the contexts were slightly different and students answered inconsistently. To understand their inconsistencies, we attended to the context of each question and looked for the differences that might influence student thinking. In the case of energy being "used up" due to dissipation, for example, we found that students thought differently about energy flow to the air or the ground. Analyzing the inconsistencies in student responses, in particular when comparing and contrasting seemingly similar questions, may help both researchers and teachers listen for ideas, target instruction, and recognize learning more effectively.
Presentation 4 Title: University Student Conceptual Resources for Understanding Energy
Presentation 4 Authors: Hannah Sabo, Lisa Goodhew, and Amy D. Robertson
Presentation 4 Abstract: We report some of the common, prevalent conceptual resources that students used to reason about energy, based on our analysis of written responses to questions given to 807 introductory physics students. These resources include, for example, associating forms of energy with indicators, relating forces and energy, and representing energy quantitatively. This research responds to a need for large-scale, resources-oriented research on students' conceptual understanding. It has the potential to support the development of an underexplored dimension of pedagogical content knowledge--knowledge of studentresources for understanding energy--and contributes to the growing field of conceptual-resources-oriented research. Our aim is to promote instructor take-up of the resources theory of knowledge, and we suggest a number of ways in which instructors might capitalize on the resources we report.
Presentation 5 Title: High School Students' Representations and Understandings of Electric Fields
Presentation 5 Authors: Ying Cao and Bárbara M. Brizuela
Presentation 5 Abstract: This study investigates the representations and understandings of electric fields expressed by Chinese high school students 15 to 16 years old who have not received high school level physics instruction. We explore students' ideas of electric fields preinstruction as shown by students' representations produced in open-ended activities. 92 participant students completed a worksheet drawing comic strips about electric charges as characters of a cartoon series. Three students were interviewed individually after class. We identified nine ideas related to electric fields that these three students spontaneously leveraged in the comic strip activity. As most research in the literature has understood students as having relatively fixed conceptions and mostly identified divergences in those conceptions from canonical targets, this study shows students' reasoning to be more variable in particular moments, and that variability includes common sense resources that can be productive for learning about electric fields.