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Energy Dynamics and Learning Dynamics

Rachel E. Scherr, Seattle Pacific University
Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
PAA A-110
Both in physics and in physics learning, we seek to trace the processes by which change occurs. In adiabatic compression, what warms the gas? When students learn about adiabatic compression, what propels them toward an increasingly correct model? Questions of causal explanation such as these require rich cases for detailed observation of constituent processes. I will describe a suite of novel energy representations that prompt learners to recognize the mechanisms for and constraints on energy transfer and transformation processes. I will then analyze a case in which learners investigating adiabatic compression develop a model of the transformation of kinetic energy to thermal energy. In so doing, I will demonstrate an integrated approach to physics education research, in which rigorous physics concepts, novel physics education research methodologies, and useful theoretical perspectives interweave to produce evidence-based recommendations for the design of physics instruction.​
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