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The Effect of Field Representation on Student Responses to Magnetic Force Questions Documents

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The Effect of Field Representation on Student Responses to Magnetic Force Questions 

written by Thomas M. Scaife and Andrew F. Heckler

We examine student understanding of the magnetic force exerted on a charged particle and report three findings from a series of tests administered to introductory physics students. First, we expand on previous findings that many students believe in "charged" magnetic poles and find that although students may answer according to a model where a positive charge is attracted to a south pole and repulsed by a north, these students may not believe that the poles are charged. Additional models produce identical answer schemes, the primary being magnetic force parallel to magnetic field. Second, the representation format affects responses: students answer differently when the magnetic field is portrayed by a field source vs. by field lines. Third, after traditional instruction improvement in student performance is greater on questions portraying field lines than for questions portraying field sources.

Published November 12, 2007
Last Modified December 1, 2010

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