University of Delhi (INDIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 2930-2939
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
“We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity” (Desmond Tutu, 2001). Its expanse into cognitive realm, may not be seemingly apparent, but is significant and noteworthy. A teacher, teaching a concept in the classroom is ostensibly a uniform experience for the students, but what students perceive of that concept may not be identical. In fact, it could be significantly varied due to wide range of aspects associated with concept. Hence, it is of much importance to explore students’ experience of the classroom and specifically, their construction of knowledge. In the subject of physics, the conceptualization of a wide variety of topics which necessarily require a minimum level of understanding of mathematical framework and tools. The concept of electrostatic force is one such topic and the understanding of vector (a mathematical tool) as well as the associated framework is indispensable in conceptualizing electrostatic force. Towards this end, the present work explores how students conceptualize the construct of electrostatic force from the viewpoint of its vector nature. It is important to appreciate that the concept of vectors, being purely mathematical, is an abstract concept and it gets a meaningful picture through the physical observables such as force, field, displacement etc. as these physical quantities exhibit magnitude as well as direction. Therefore, we attempt to engage students in a few problems aimed at their understanding of the concept of electrostatic force (a physical quantity) and analyze their responses to identify if they posses conceptual difficulties at the level of electrostatics or at the level of vectors. Our observations reveal that a significant fraction of conceptual difficulties amongst the students are due to insufficient understanding of operations involving vector quantities. The implications of this work indicate that the pedagogical aspects in physics classroom and curriculum design needs to be researched holistically so as to bridge-in the gaps obstructing the desired cognitive framework of students.
Cognition, pedagogy.