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Science and Mathematics Education

The University of Maine

Physics Education Research

Articles 1 - 3 of 3

Full-Text Articles in Education

Investigating Student Learning Of Analog Electronics, Kevin L. Van De Bogart May 2017

Investigating Student Learning Of Analog Electronics, Kevin L. Van De Bogart

Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Instruction in analog electronics is an integral component of many physics and engineering programs, and is typically covered in courses beyond the first year. While extensive research has been conducted on student understanding of introductory electric circuits, to date there has been relatively little research on student learning of analog electronics in either physics or engineering courses. Given the significant overlap in content of courses offered in both disciplines, this study seeks to strengthen the research base on the learning and teaching of electric circuits and analog electronics via a single, coherent investigation spanning both physics and engineering courses.

This ...


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 students’ 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 ...