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Revista mexicana de física E

Print version ISSN 1870-3542


ERCEG, N. et al. Probing students' conceptual knowledge of satellite motion through the use of diagram. Rev. mex. fís. E [online]. 2014, vol.60, n.1, pp.75-85. ISSN 1870-3542.

We investigated students' understanding of satellite motion around the Earth. For that purpose, we surveyed high-school and university students from Croatia. With the objective of gaining insight into teachers' understanding of students' abilities, physics teachers were asked to predict students' answers. The results of the study suggest that most students have difficulties with providing physically based explanations. They tend to approach such problems through the use of phenomenological primitives. Specifically, they tend to use the "closer is stronger" p-prim when attempting to identify the satellite orbit which would ensure receiving satellite television signal at a certain location paying no attention to the direction of the gravitational force. We found no statistically significant association between the students' ability to correctly explain the satellite motion and their educational background. The teachers considerably overestimate students' abilities. Generally, the results of this study suggest that diagram-based problem can be useful tool for probing students' understanding of satellite motion.

Keywords : Diagrammatic representation; satellite motion; students' problem solving.

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