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Understanding Physics Equations: Comparing the views of students and teachers
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Education Research)
(Physics Education Research)
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Understanding a physics equation: Comparing the views of students and teachers


As a discipline, physics is concerned with describing the world by constructing models, the end product of this modelling process often being an equation. Despite their importance in the representation of physics knowledge, physics equations have received surprisingly little attention in the literature. The work that has been done has tended to focus on the use of equations in problem solving (see Hsu, Brewe, Foster, & Harper, 2004 for an overview and Hegde & Meera, 2012 for a more recent example). One significant study is that of Sherin (2001) who examined students ability to construct equations. Very little work has examined what it means to understand a physics equation, the only work we could locate was that of Domert, 2007 and Hechter, 2010. Building on these two sources a study that examined how students understand an equationwas recently carried out (Airey, Grundström Lindqvist & Kung, in production Grundström Lindqvist & Airey 2013a 2013b). The result of that study was twelve questions that the authors suggest can be used by students orlecturers to develop the understanding of physics equations. These questions were generated by the answers that over 300 students in Sweden, USA and Australia gave to the question; How do you know when you understand a physics equation?

This project builds upon this earlier study by investigating the use of the twelve questions with focus groups of students and by ascertaining the opinions of physics lecturers.


Airey, Grundström Lindqvist & Kung (in production) What does it mean to understand a physics Equation?

Domert, D., Airey, J., Linder, C., & Kung, R. (2007). An exploration of university physics students' epistemological mindsets towards the understanding of physics equations. NorDiNa, Nordic Studies in Science Education(3), 15-28.

Grundström Lindqvist, J., and Airey, J. (2013). "Förståelse av fysikekvationer: Vad säger studenter?"Konferens i universitetspedagogisk utveckling, Uppsala, 16 October. City: Uppsala Universitet.

Grundström Lindqvist, J. (2013). "Vad innebär det att förstå en ekvation inom fysiken enligt studenter?"Uppsala Universitet Teknisk-naturvetenskapliga fakultetens Universitetspedagogiska Konferens, TUK 2013, 19 April. City: Uppsala Universitet.

Hechter, R. P. (2010). What does it understand the equation' really mean? Physics Education, 45(132).

Hegde, B. Meera, B. N. (2012). How do they solve it? An insight into the learner's approach to the mechanism of physics problem solving. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 8, 010109

Hsu, L., Brewe, E., Foster, T. M., & Harper, K. A. (2004). Resource Letter RPS-1: Research in problem solving. American Journal of Physics, 72(9), 1147-1156.

Sherin, B. L. (2001). How students understand physics equations. Cognitive Instruction, 19, 479-541.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Physics education, Undergraduate learning, Physics equations, qualitative research
National Category
Learning Didactics Other Physics Topics
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-220730OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-220730DiVA: diva2:706347
TUK 2014 - universitetspedagogisk konferens
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2014-03-19 Created: 2014-03-19 Last updated: 2014-03-21

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