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A new approach to the teaching of electricity is described that uses box and AVOW diagrams, novel representations of the properties of the electric circuit which portray current, voltage, resistance and power. The diagrams have been developed as aids to learning, understanding and problem solving. They also have the potential to promote conceptual change by challenging a number of commonly held misconceptions. The diagrams have been incorporated into A-level teaching materials on d.c. circuit theory and the rationale for this approach is contrasted with a number of strategies that have previously been reported. Part 2 of this paper (Cheng and Shipstone, International Journal of Science Education, in press) will present the results of preliminary school-based trials.
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