Student Difficulities with Boundary Conditions in Electrodynamics Documents

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Student Difficulities with Boundary Conditions in Electrodynamics 

written by Qing X. Ryan, Steven J. Pollock, and Bethany R. Wilcox

Boundary conditions (BCs) are considered as an important topic that advanced physics under- graduates are expected to understand and apply. We report findings from an investigation of student difficulties using boundary conditions (BCs) in electrodynamics. Our data sources include student responses to traditional exam questions, conceptual survey questions, and think-aloud interviews. The analysis was guided by an analytical framework that characterizes how students activate, con- struct, execute, and reflect on boundary conditions. Common student difficulties include: activating boundary conditions in appropriate contexts; constructing a complex expression for the E&M waves; mathematically simplifying complex exponentials and checking if the reflection and transmission co- efficient are physical. We also present potential pedagogical implications based on our observations.

Last Modified December 16, 2015

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