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Toward a Comprehensive Picture of Student Understanding of Force, Velocity, and Acceleration Documents

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Toward a Comprehensive Picture of Student Understanding of Force, Velocity, and Acceleration 

written by Rebecca Rosenblatt, Eleanor C. Sayre, and Andrew F. Heckler

Students' difficulties with conceptual questions about force, velocity, and acceleration have been well documented. However, there has been no single systematic study of student understanding of all paired relations among the concepts of force, velocity, and acceleration. For example, a student who believes an object with a net force on it must be moving might not believe an accelerating object must be moving. In this paper, we describe the development of a test to build a more comprehensive picture of student understanding. We describe modifications to increase the validity of the test by reducing false positives and unwanted inconsistencies. We also report preliminary data suggesting that there are definite patterns in student understanding of the various relations between force, velocity, and acceleration. For example, there are a higher number of students reporting that force and velocity are directionally related then that acceleration and velocity are directionally related.

Published October 20, 2008
Last Modified May 22, 2009

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