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A Comparison of Student Misconceptions in Rotational and Rectilinear Motion

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Physics & Physics Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.34.1 - 24.34.27



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Paper Authors

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Warren A. Turner Westfield State University

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Glenn W. Ellis Smith College


Robert J. Beichner North Carolina State University

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For much of Professor Beichner's career he has focused his attention on redesigning introductory physics education and created the SCALE-UP (Student Centered Activities for Large Enrollment University Physics) project. SCALE-UP has been adopted at more than 250 universities and had spread to other content areas and into middle and high schools, necessitating a name change to Student Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies.

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A comparison of student misconceptions in rotational and rectilinear motionThe Test of Understanding Graphics in Kinematics (TUG-K) has been modified to produce aTest of Understanding Graphics in Rotational Kinematics (TUG-R) to probe studentunderstanding of rotational kinematics. The seven objectives of the TUG-K were modified withthree questions to explore each objective resulting in a 21 question TUG-R which closelyparallels the original. For many questions the modification was a simple substitution of theequivalent rotational quantity for its linear counterpart in the question stem, answers and graph-axis labels. For the remainder of the questions the modification was straightforward. Forinstance, references to objects moving in a straight line were replaced by references to objectsspinning about a fixed axis.The TUG-R was administered to 198 students at a small, liberal arts college in New England.The use of a calculator was permitted and students were offered as much time as they wanted tocomplete the examination. No inducement or reward was offered to students to take theexamination and it was not counted toward their grade in the class. In order to make a moredirect comparison to the results of the TUG-K, the data were narrowed to consider only 93students where the TUG-R was administered post-instruction in both linear and rotationalkinematics. This group includes student instruction in a traditional, lecture-based format as wellas active engagement classrooms. Approximately 80% of the students were enrolled in analgebra-based course, the remainder in a calculus-based course.Post-instruction student responses on the TUG-K and TUG-R were compared. A 2 tailed z-testwas performed to assess whether or not differences in sample size can account for the differencesin results between the TUG-R and TUG-K which are reported. An objective by objective,question by question analysis of the results suggests the three basic types of misconceptionsnoted following post-instruction analysis of the TUG-K, namely graph type confusion, slopecalculation and slope vs. area confusion, continue to be exhibited at some level by studentstaking the TUG-R. However, significant differences were noted, with TUG-R studentsperforming better on every question in two of the seven objectives on 8 of the 21 questions andequally well on 9 of the remaining 13.Further work will be conducted to verify that these observations and conclusions remainconsistent as the testing sample is expanded across a broader spectrum of students of differentlevels, using different instructional techniques and at a larger cross section of institutions.

Turner, W. A., & Ellis, G. W., & Beichner, R. J. (2014, June), A Comparison of Student Misconceptions in Rotational and Rectilinear Motion Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19926

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