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This paper, presented at the 2001 Physics Education Research Conference, discusses an investigation which aims to provide a research base for the design of instruction to help students develop expertise in solving work-energy problems. An energy process can be represented by verbal, pictorial, bar chart, and mathematical representations. Assessment indicates that the work-energy bar charts, as a physical representation of a work-energy process, play an important role in student problem solving: they help students 1) reason about work-energy problems conceptually first, 2) set up the generalized work-energy equation correctly and easily, and 3) make inferences and evaluate their problem solutions.
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