Physics Education Research Conference (PERC)

August 7-8, 2002 - Boise, ID

Poster Session Abstract

Student Learning of Calorimetry Concepts*, Ngoc-Loan P. Nguyen, Iowa State University,
David E. Meltzer

As part of an investigation into student learning of thermodynamics, we are examining understanding of calorimetry concepts among students in a calculus-based physics course. During interviews, students were asked questions regarding a piece of hot metal submerged in an insulated container of water. Students realized that thermal equilibrium would be achieved, and were also able to correctly predict the effect on the equilibrium temperature of changing the mass of the metal. However, students generally displayed an inability to distinguish among internal energy, heat, and work. Some students also confused thermal conductivity with specific heat. Preliminary versions of guided-inquiry worksheets have been developed that present both qualitative questions and proportional reasoning tasks. The tasks include determination of (1) changes in the internal energy of an ideal gas, (2) relative amount of heat transfer between materials of differing temperature and specific heat, and (3) relative temperature changes of those materials during their progress toward thermal equilibrium. We will report on initial assessment data regarding the effectiveness of these materials in improving student learning. *Supported by NSF DUE-#9981140