NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1043544
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1554-9178
Arrows as Anchors: An Analysis of the Material Features of Electric Field Vector Arrows
Gire, Elizabeth; Price, Edward
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, v10 n2 p020112-1-020112-11 Jul-Dec 2014
Representations in physics possess both physical and conceptual aspects that are fundamentally intertwined and can interact to support or hinder sense making and computation. We use distributed cognition and the theory of conceptual blending with material anchors to interpret the roles of conceptual and material features of representations in students' use of representations for computation. We focus on the vector-arrows representation of electric fields and describe this representation as a conceptual blend of electric field concepts, physical space, and the material features of the representation (i.e., the physical writing and the surface upon which it is drawn). In this representation, spatial extent (e.g., distance on paper) is used to represent both distances in coordinate space and magnitudes of electric field vectors. In conceptual blending theory, this conflation is described as a clash between the input spaces in the blend.We explore the benefits and drawbacks of this clash, as well as other features of this representation. This analysis is illustrated with examples from clinical problem-solving interviews with upper-division physics majors. We see that while these intermediate physics students make a variety of errors using this representation, they also use the geometric features of the representation to add electric field contributions and to organize the problem situation productively.
American Physical Society. One Physics Ellipse 4th Floor, College Park, MD 20740-3844. Tel: 301-209-3200; Fax: 301-209-0865; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Oregon
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE 1023120