AAPT Abstract Archive

Abstract Information

  Title: What's Entropy? Student Understanding of Thermodynamics in an Introductory Physics Course*
  Location: Space 4
  Date: Tuesday, Jan. 24
  Time: 9:15 a.m.
  Author: Warren Christensen, Iowa State Univ.
515-294-1647, wmchris@iastate.edu
  Co-Author(s): David E Meltzer
  Abstract: Continuing with our previous investigations into student understanding of thermal physics in an introductory calculus-based course, we have probed students' ideas regarding entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. Nearly 90% of students enrolled in the class have had previous exposure to thermodynamics concepts in chemistry and/or high school physics courses, so many have specific ideas about these concepts before instruction begins. We will present free-response and multiple-choice data collected both pre- and post-instruction from the previous three semesters. Evidence suggests that many key concepts, e.g., that the entropy of the universe increases for all non-ideal processes, remain highly resistant to instruction, although students seem to make progress in understanding certain thermodynamic relationships.
  Footnotes: *Supported in part by NSF grants DUE-#9981140 and PHY-#0406724

2003 © American Association of Physics Teachers
Have questions about this site? Email the webmaster.
AAPT HomeAAPT Abstract ArchivePast Meeting Info