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# Education Commons™

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Science and Mathematics Education

The University of Maine

Physics and Astronomy Faculty Scholarship

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Articles 1 - 2 of 2

## Full-Text Articles in Education

Identifying Student Difficulties With Heat Engines, Entropy, And The Carnot Cycle, Trevor I. Smith, Warren M. Christensen, Donald B. Mountcastle, John R. Thompson Sep 2015

#### Identifying Student Difficulties With Heat Engines, Entropy, And The Carnot Cycle, Trevor I. Smith, Warren M. Christensen, Donald B. Mountcastle, John R. Thompson

##### Physics and Astronomy Faculty Scholarship

We report on several specific student difficulties regarding the second law of thermodynamics in the context of heat engines within upper-division undergraduate thermal physics courses. Data come from ungraded written surveys, graded homework assignments, and videotaped classroom observations of tutorial activities. Written data show that students in these courses do not clearly articulate the connection between the Carnot cycle and the second law after lecture instruction. This result is consistent both within and across student populations. Observation data provide evidence for myriad difficulties related to entropy and heat engines, including studentsâ€™ struggles in reasoning about situations that are physically impossible ...

Student Understanding Of The Boltzmann Factor, Trevor I. Smith, Donald B. Mountcastle, John R. Thompson Sep 2015

#### Student Understanding Of The Boltzmann Factor, Trevor I. Smith, Donald B. Mountcastle, John R. Thompson

##### Physics and Astronomy Faculty Scholarship

We present results of our investigation into student understanding of the physical significance and utility of the Boltzmann factor in several simple models. We identify various justifications, both correct and incorrect, that students use when answering written questions that require application of the Boltzmann factor. Results from written data as well as teaching interviews suggest that many students can neither recognize situations in which the Boltzmann factor is applicable nor articulate the physical significance of the Boltzmann factor as an expression for multiplicity, a fundamental quantity of statistical mechanics. The specific student difficulties seen in the written data led us ...