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This article reports on an investigation of student understanding of the concept of time in special relativity. A series of research tasks are discussed that illustrate, step-by-step, how student reasoning of fundamental concepts of relativity was probed. The results indicate that after standard instruction students at all academic levels have serious difficulties with the relativity of simultaneity and with the role of observers in inertial reference frames. Evidence is presented that suggests many students construct a conceptual framework in which the ideas of absolute simultaneity and the relativity of simultaneity harmoniously co-exist.
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