Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research

August 15-19, 2005 Bar Harbor, Maine


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Student Ideas about the State-Function Property of Entropy*
Warren M. Christensen, David E. Meltzer, Thomas A. Stroman
Iowa State University, IA

To develop an understanding of the state-function property of entropy is often a key objective of the introductory physics curriculum. We have been investigating the development of students' reasoning regarding this concept in the context of both algebra- and calculus-based general physics courses, with particular attention to the possible role played by students' ideas regarding other basic thermodynamic quantities such as heat, work, and internal energy. We will present pre- and post-instruction data reflecting student performance on entropy-related questions in various contexts. Preliminary analysis suggests superior post-instruction performance on questions employing P-V diagrams that show diverse processes with common initial and final states, in comparison to a similar verbal question involving a cyclic process.

*Supported in part by NSF grants #DUE-9981140 and #PHY-0406724