In this dissertation, I describe an investigation of student understanding of mechanical and sound waves, how we organize our findings, and how our results lead to the development of curriculum materials used in the classroom. Student understanding is described in the context of wave propagation, superposition, use of mathematics, and other topics. Investigations were carried out using the common tools of PER, including free response, multiple-choice, multiple-response, and semi-guided individual interview questions. Student reasoning is described in terms of primitives generally used to simplify reasoning about complicated topics. I introduce a previously undocumented primitive, the object as point primitive. We organize student descriptions of wave physics around the idea of patterns of associations that use common primitive elements of reasoning. We can describe students as if they make an analogy toward Newtonian particle physics. The analogy guides students toward describing a wave as if it were a point particle described by certain unique parts of the wave. A diagnostic test has been developed to probe the dynamics of student reasoning during the course of instruction. We have replaced traditional recitation instruction with curriculum materials designed to help students come to a more complete and appropriate understanding of wave physics. We find that the research-based instructional materials are more effective than the traditional lecture setting in helping students apply appropriate reasoning elements to the physics of waves.


  • Education > General

Education Levels:

  • Grade 1
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 9


Particle Pulses Mental Model,Vocational/Professional Development Education,Undergraduate (Lower Division),Higher Education,Oscillations & Waves,NSDL,Undergraduate (Upper Division),Acoustics,oai:nsdl.org:2200/20081005195526562T,Wave Properties of Sound,Education Practices,Wave Motion,NSDL_SetSpec_439869,Student Difficulties with Wave Physics,Curriculum Development,Education,Physics,Dynamics of Student Reasoning,Graduate/Professional



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