Smith, Thompson, and Mountcastle on the Boltzmann Factor

Trevor I. Smith, John R. Thompson, and Donald B. Mountcastle

Addressing Student Difficulties with Statistical Mechanics: The Boltzmann Factor

AIP Conf. Proc. -- October 24, 2010 -- Volume 1289, pp. 305-308

As part of research into student understanding of topics related to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics at the upper division, we have identified student difficulties in applying concepts related to the Boltzmann factor and the canonical partition function. With this in mind, we have developed a guided-inquiry worksheet activity (tutorial) designed to help students develop a better understanding of where the Boltzmann factor comes from and why it is useful. The tutorial guides students through the derivation of both the Boltzmann factor and the canonical partition function. Preliminary results suggest that students who participated in the tutorial had a higher success rate on assessment items than students who had only received lecture instruction on the topic. We present results that motivate the need for this tutorial, the outline of the derivation used, and results from implementations of the tutorial. ©2010 American Institute of Physics

Hawkins et al. on vector addition

Jeffrey M. Hawkins, John R. Thompson, Michael C. Wittmann, Eleanor C. Sayre, and Brian W. Frank

AIP Conf. Proc. -- October 24, 2010 -- Volume 1289, pp. 165-168

We investigate if the visual representation of vectors can affect which methods students use to add them. We gave students one of four questions with different graphical representations, asking students to add the same two vectors. For students in an algebra-based class the arrangement of the vectors had a statistically significant effect on the vector addition method chosen while the addition or removal of a grid did not. ©2010 American Institute of Physics


Springuel Ph.D.: Cluster analysis in kinematics and the FMCE

R. Padraic Springuel
Applying Cluster Analysis to Physics Education Research Data
Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maine, 2010