High School Students' Representations and Understandings of The Electric Field.
Abstract: This dissertation investigates high school students' representations
and understandings of the electric field when students engage in informal, open-ended
classroom activities prior to receiving formal instruction. The electric field is an
important concept in physics. It is usually taught in high school and college. Due to the
fact that human eyes cannot directly see the electric fi... read moreeld, and that the theories of the
electric field involve multiple factors and non-linear relationships, learning of the
electric field often appears difficult to students. Past research has investigated the
difficulties students have while they learn the electric field, have largely adopted formal
assessments as a way to evaluate students' understandings of the electric field, were
carried out while students were taking courses about the electric field, and most of them
focused on college students. In this dissertation, I identify gaps in the current
literature. First, high school students' understandings of the electric field need more
attention from educational researchers, because most students first encounter the concept
of the electric field in high school. Second, students' ideas of the electric field prior
to receiving formal instruction expressed in informal, everyday-language should be studied
in more depth, because these prior ideas will contribute to their learning of the electric
field. This dissertation bridges these gaps by studying high school students'
representations and understandings of the electric field expressed in informal, open-ended
classroom activities prior to receiving formal instruction. The participants in this
dissertation study were high school students ages 15 or 16, were enrolled in a summer
school in China when I implemented the electricity lesson featured in this study. During
the electricity lesson, the participant students took part in two open-ended activities.
One activity involved playing with a computer game that simulates the electric field as a
hockey field. The other activity involved drawing comic strips about electric charges as if
they were characters in a cartoon series. Post class, a small sample of students was
interviewed about their work of the comic strip activity. I carried out qualitative
analyses on student written work and on transcripts of interview videos and classroom
videos. Results are presented in three standalone studies. The first study examines high
school students' representations and understandings of the electric field when they
produced arrow diagrams in the comic strip activity. The second study reports on students'
narratives about electric charges and interactions in the comic strip activity. The third
study reports on a students' group interaction in the classroom with an educational
computer game that simulates the electric field as a hockey field.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of Education.
Advisor: Bárbara Brizuela.
Committee: Michelle Wilkerson-Jerde, Gary Goldstein, and Ayush Gupta.
Keywords: Education, and Science education.read less