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Title: Physics education research : the student's application of analytical and graphical skills in visualising physical situations
Authors: Arelason, J.
Keywords: DRNTU::Science::Physics::Electricity and magnetism
DRNTU::Science::Physics::Descriptive and experimental mechanics
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: Graphs are vital visual communication tools in science. In this thesis study, two main questions were asked. I.) if a student could analyse a given graph in a particular physics topic, could the individual plot a realistic and scientifically accurate graph given a familiar scenario in the same physics topic? II.) if the student was able to sketch proficiently in that (now familiar) physics topic, could the individual transfer their sketching skills when presented graphing problems in different physics topics? 1,200 engineering students from the Nanyang Technological University in a year 1 introductory physics course participated in this study. These students were assumed to be homogeneously Singaporean, and educated according to Singapore's education system. They were asked to participate in a Diagnostic Test (DT), which profiled their common misconceptions, mathematical and graph analytical abilities. During the participant's Mid-Term 1 (MT1), their vectorial understanding was measured and they were presented with a graph sketching question based on a familiar physiological exercise. The students' performance was measured and compared against the previous DT and MT1 questions. Findings for I.) suggested that students needed to understand the conceptual meaning of a graph's slope and be able to identify directional changes to plot proficiently. Observed trends support literature that students were able to procedurally do the mathematics, but were unaware of the graphical and conceptual meaning behind the mathematics. The student's differentiation ability was measured in the finals, concurrently with their conceptual understanding in the Energy and Electromagnetism (EM) topics. They were presented with two sketching questions, the first in the energy context (Energy Sketch) and the second in the EM context (EM Sketch). Statistical findings suggest that the student's ability to graph decreased when the context was changed. We observed 3 significant reasons for II.). First, was the student being able to successfully do mathematics. Second was one's conceptual understanding in the shifted context and lastly was one's previous graphing experience. It was discovered that when the physical context shifted, students with better conceptual understanding of the new topic's concepts were less affected than those who had their prior sketching experiences and mathematical ability. The revelations of this study supports literature that students were unable to transfer their graphical abilities from the math to the physics subject was due to insufficient understanding in both mathematical and physical concepts. Inter-subject transfer of graphical skills between topics was also deficient, with significant decreases proportional to the topical distance between the context.
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SPMS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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