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Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research
written by David Rosengrant, Alan Van Heuvelen, and Eugenia Etkina
Physics education literature recommends using multiple representations to help students understand concepts and solve problems. However, there is little research concerning why students use the representations and whether those who use them are more successful. This study addresses these questions using free-body diagrams (diagrammatic representations used in problems involving forces) as a type of representation. We conducted a two-year quantitative and qualitative study of students' use of free-body diagrams while solving physics problems. We found that when students are in a course that consistently emphasizes the use of free-body diagrams, the majority of them do use diagrams on their own to help solve exam problems even when they receive no credit for drawing the diagrams. We also found that students who draw diagrams correctly are significantly more successful in obtaining the right answer for the problem. Lastly, we interviewed students to uncover their reasons for using free-body diagrams. We found that high achieving students used the diagrams to help solve the problems and as a tool to evaluate their work while low achieving students only used representations as aids in the problem-solving process.
Subjects ADS Supplements Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- General
- Newton's Second Law
Education Foundations
- Research Design & Methodology
- Student Characteristics
= Skills
General Physics
- Physics Education Research
- Reference Material
= Research study
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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application/pdf
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Access Rights:
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© 2009 American Physical Society
DOI:
10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108
NSF Numbers:
0241078
0336713
PACS:
01.40.gb
Keywords:
Diagrammatic Representations, Free-Body Diagrams, Mix-Methods Research, problem solving, symbolic representations
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 31, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
May 21, 2014 by Bruce Mason
Last Update
when Cataloged:
June 1, 2009

This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.


Topic: Dynamics: Forces and Motion
Unit Title: Newton's Second Law & Net Force

How do beginners use and interpret FB diagrams? Do these symbolic representations help novice physics learners become better problem-solvers? This article from Physics Review Special Topics gives detailed results of a 2009 study. A key result: students who "draw diagrams correctly are significantly more successful in obtaining the right answer for the problem". Read full article for more insight. (Free download)

Link to Unit:

Topic: Dynamics: Forces and Motion
Unit Title: Force Diagrams

How do beginners use and interpret FB diagrams? Do these symbolic representations help novice physics learners become better problem-solvers? This article from Physics Review Special Topics gives detailed results of a 2009 study. A key result: students who "draw diagrams correctly are significantly more successful in obtaining the right answer for the problem". Read full article for more insight. (Free download)

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
D. Rosengrant, A. Van Heuvelen, and E. Etkina, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5 (1), 010108 (2009), WWW Document, (http://journals.aps.org/prstper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108).
AJP/PRST-PER
D. Rosengrant, A. Van Heuvelen, and E. Etkina, Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5 (1), 010108 (2009), <http://journals.aps.org/prstper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108>.
APA Format
Rosengrant, D., Van Heuvelen, A., & Etkina, E. (2009, June 1). Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 5(1), 010108. Retrieved December 20, 2014, from http://journals.aps.org/prstper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108
Chicago Format
Rosengrant, D, A. Van Heuvelen, and E. Etkina. "Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?." Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, no. 1, (June 1, 2009): 010108, http://journals.aps.org/prstper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108 (accessed 20 December 2014).
MLA Format
Rosengrant, David, Alan Van Heuvelen, and Eugenia Etkina. "Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?." Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5.1 (2009): 010108. 20 Dec. 2014 <http://journals.aps.org/prstper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108>.
BibTeX Export Format
@article{ Author = "David Rosengrant and Alan Van Heuvelen and Eugenia Etkina", Title = {Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?}, Journal = {Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res.}, Volume = {5}, Number = {1}, Pages = {010108}, Month = {June}, Year = {2009} }
Refer Export Format

%A David Rosengrant
%A Alan Van Heuvelen
%A Eugenia Etkina
%T Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?
%J Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res.
%V 5
%N 1
%D June 1, 2009
%P 010108
%U http://journals.aps.org/prstper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Journal Article
%A Rosengrant, David
%A Van Heuvelen, Alan
%A Etkina, Eugenia
%D June 1, 2009
%T Do students use and understand free-body diagrams?
%J Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res.
%V 5
%N 1
%P 010108
%8 June 1, 2009
%U http://journals.aps.org/prstper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.010108


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