UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of student ideas regarding two physical phenomena Axford, James Herbert


The general problem investigated was the relationship between the ideas that a student derives from a study of scientific paradigms and those the student derives from other informal sources. There were specific facets of the general problem: to investigate if students possess characteristic ideas, to investigate the effect of physics training on student ideas, to investigate if student ideas contain inconsistencies, and if students with consistent ideas are successful in applying scientific paradigms. Student ideas of two physical phenomena, accelerated motion and simple harmonic motion, were investigated using three paper and pencil tests. The boundaries between which ideas a student derived from informal sources and from the study of scientific paradigms was not clear and therefore the case study methodology was used. Different facets of the investigation used different cases: varying from the classroom to the individual student. It was found that the use of a variety of instruments allowed the ideas a student derives from informal sources and those the student derives from a study of the scientific paradigms to be revealed. Students of different age/grade ranges were found to possess ideas that were characteristic. Physics instruction was found to have significant effects. However, it was also found that some students retained ideas that were inconsistent with the scientific paradigms even after physics instruction. This illustrated that students could possess ideas that were inconsistent with each other. However, it was shown that it was possible for a student to resolve these inconsistencies. It was proposed that teaching strategies needed to be developed that would help students resolve inconsistent ideas.

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