Chemical engineering students’ conceptions of entropy
2015 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Understanding of the second law of thermodynamics and the closely connected entropy concept is central in thermodynamics, and thereby also in physics and chemistry education. Nonetheless, entropy has been found to be particularly challenging for students, not least due to its abstract character. One common approach to teaching and learning about entropy has been to make comparisons with more familiar and concrete domains, by means of analogy and metaphor, such as the metaphor ‘entropy is disorder’, which however has met with criticism in science education. In the present study, students (N = 73) filled out a questionnaire before and after a course on chemical thermodynamics. They were asked to: (1) describe their understanding of what entropy is; (2) list the most important other scientific concepts they relate to entropy; (3) after the course, also reflect on how their understanding of entropy had developed. Our analyses show that the disorder metaphor dominated the students’ responses, although in a more reflective manner after the course. The idea of entropy as the freedom for particles to move about gained in popularity. A majority of the students engaged particle interaction approaches to entropy, which indicates their identification within the chemistry tradition. This chemistry identification was further illustrated by enthalpy and Gibbs free energy being the concepts most often mentioned as connected to entropy. Intriguingly, no correlations were found between these qualitative ideas of entropy and the results of the written exam, primarily focusing on quantitative problem solving.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-262730OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-262730DiVA: diva2:855049
11th Conference of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA), Helsinki, Finland, 31 Aug-4 Sept