E&M Tutorial V: Revisiting the Superposition Principle after Gauss' Law Documents

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E&M Tutorial V: Revisiting the Superposition Principle after Gauss' Law 

written by Chandralekha Singh and the University of Pittsburgh Physics Education Research Group

This research-based student tutorial covers the topics of Gauss's Law and the superposition principle in electrostatics. The material is appropriate for a calculus-based introductory physics course.

The tutorial is designed for use after traditional instruction as an in-class supplement, out-of-class homework, or student self-study tool. The authors recommend that the tutorial be given in-class to students working in groups of 2-3. A majority of student groups can finish the pre-test and tutorial in a 1 hour 50 minute period.

A pre-test and post-test are available to assess student learning. If used, the pre-test should be given after traditional instruction and before the tutorial. The post-test should be given the following class so that students that do not finish the tutorial can do so at home before taking the post-test. The pre- and post-tests each require 15-20 minutes to complete. Professors may choose to give the pre-test in-class after traditional instruction, the tutorial as homework, and the post-test in the following class.

This work is based on research into students' common difficulties in applying the superposition principle and Gauss's law in electrostatics. Some of these findings are available in Student Understanding of Symmetry and Gauss's Law of Electricity, Am. J. Phys. 74 (10), 923-936 (2006). Details of the design, construction and testing of the tutorial are available in J. Li, Improving Students' Understanding of Electricity and Magnetism, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 2012 and J. Li, A. Maries and C. Singh, Helping students apply superposition principle in problems involving spherical, cylindrical and planar charge distributions, Am. J. Phys. 91 (8), 613-616 (2023).

This tutorial was last updated in August 2023.

Published August 4, 2023
Last Modified August 16, 2023

This file has previous versions.

Supplemental Documents

E&M Tutorial V Word Files 

This zip document provides the Word files for the tutorial on superposition and Gauss's Law.

Last Modified August 16, 2023

This file has previous versions.