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American Journal of Physics
written by Chandralekha Singh
We investigate the difficulties that students in calculus-based introductory physics courses have with the concepts of symmetry, electric field, and electric flux which are important for applying Gauss's law. The determination of the electric field using Gauss's law requires determining the symmetry of a particular charge distribution and predicting the direction of the electric field everywhere if a high symmetry exists. Effective application of Gauss's law implicitly requires understanding the principle of superposition for electric fields. Helping students learn when Gauss's law can be readily applied to determine the strength of the electric field, and then helping them learn to determine the appropriate shape of Gaussian surfaces if sufficient symmetry exists, can help develop their reasoning and problem-solving skills. We administered free-response and multiple-choice questions and conducted interviews with individual students using a think-aloud protocol to elucidate the difficulties that students have with the concepts of symmetry, electric field, and electric flux. We also developed a multiple-choice test that targets these conceptual issues to obtain quantitative information about their difficulties and administered it to 541 students in the introductory calculus-based physics courses and to upper-level undergraduates in an electricity and magnetism course and to graduate students enrolled in a teaching assistant seminar course. We find that undergraduate students have many common difficulties with these concepts.
American Journal of Physics: Volume 74, Issue 10, Pages 923-936
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Subjects ADS Supplements Resource Types
Education Foundations
- Student Characteristics
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electric Fields and Potential
= Electric Field
= Gauss' Law
- Electrostatics
- Reference Material
= Research study
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© 2006 American Association of Physics Teachers
DOI:
10.1119/1.2238883
NSF Number:
0442087
PACS:
01.40.Fk
Keywords:
Problem Solving, Reasoning, conceptual understanding, electrostatics, symmetry
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created June 25, 2007 by Shawn Weatherford
Record Updated:
August 12, 2012 by Ashok Kumar Mittal
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 1, 2006
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AIP Format
C. Singh, Am. J. Phys. 74 (10), 923 (2006), WWW Document, (http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2238883).
AJP/PRST-PER
C. Singh, Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity Am. J. Phys. 74 (10), 923 (2006), <http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2238883>.
APA Format
Singh, C. (2006, October 1). Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity. Am. J. Phys., 74(10), 923-936. Retrieved September 2, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2238883
Chicago Format
Singh, Chandralekha. "Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity." Am. J. Phys. 74, no. 10, (October 1, 2006): 923-936, http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2238883 (accessed 2 September 2014).
MLA Format
Singh, Chandralekha. "Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity." Am. J. Phys. 74.10 (2006): 923-936. 2 Sep. 2014 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2238883>.
BibTeX Export Format
@article{ Author = "Chandralekha Singh", Title = {Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity}, Journal = {Am. J. Phys.}, Volume = {74}, Number = {10}, Pages = {923-936}, Month = {October}, Year = {2006} }
Refer Export Format

%A Chandralekha Singh
%T Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity
%J Am. J. Phys.
%V 74
%N 10
%D October 1, 2006
%P 923-936
%U http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2238883
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Journal Article
%A Singh, Chandralekha
%D October 1, 2006
%T Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity
%J Am. J. Phys.
%V 74
%N 10
%P 923-936
%8 October 1, 2006
%U http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2238883


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Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity:

References Key Document Symmetry and Gauss's Law Conceptual Evaluation

The Rotational and Rolling Motion Conceptual Survey is provided separately in a password protected file to help ensure its integrity.

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relation by Lyle Barbato
Is the Basis For Diagnostic module for conceptual understanding of Symmetry and Gauss's Law

The paper, "Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity" by C. Singh motivated the development of this diagnostic module.

relation by Ashok Kumar Mittal

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