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Aristotle still wins over Newton: an evaluation report of a new, simulation-supported approach to teach the concepts of inertia and gravity

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6 Author(s)
Haertel, H. ; Inst. for Theor. Phys. & Astrophys., Univ. of Kiel, Germany ; Kires, M. ; Jeskova, Z. ; Degro, J.
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Evaluation studies of the results of physics instruction show quite clearly that concepts derived from daily life, sometimes known as misconceptions, are rather robust and - for the majority of students resist all attempts at change through instruction. A particularly outstanding misconception is the ancient view of the origin of motion, which dates back to Aristotle. He stated: "Every movement needs a mover" and this concept, which in mathematical form can be expressed as F=mv, is deeply rooted in the minds of modern students, even after they have finished a mechanics course. Some members of the CoLoS (Conceptual Learning of Science) international association decided, as a first step, to test whether these findings could be replicated across our different school systems. In brief, our data are fully in agreement with the well known observation. We also found out that most of our students do not differentiate between inertial mass and gravitational mass. Some learning material enriched with simulations and computer generated animations were developed to cover the topics "Inertia", Free Fall" and "Satellite movement". The special feature of these simulations consists of the fact that, instead of neutral objects in a gravitational field, we simulated the movement of charged objects in an electrical field. Under such circumstances the effect of inertial mass and attracting force can be effectively separated and studied in detail before they are combined in a mechanical world with gravity and no charge. An evaluation has been administered in four different countries under controlled conditions with 9 groups and a total of 103 students. The results of a delayed post test are positive but a little below our expectations. Hints for further improvement can be derived.

Published in:

EUROCON 2003. Computer as a Tool. The IEEE Region 8  (Volume:1 )

Date of Conference:

22-24 Sept. 2003