NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1154202
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 17
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-2469-9896
Challenges in Designing Appropriate Scaffolding to Improve Students' Representational Consistency: The Case of a Gauss's Law Problem
Maries, Alexandru; Lin, Shih-Yin; Singh, Chandralekha
Physical Review Physics Education Research, v13 n2 p020103-1-020103-17 Jul-Dec 2017
Prior research suggests that introductory physics students have difficulty with graphing and interpreting graphs. Here, we discuss an investigation of student difficulties in translating between mathematical and graphical representations for a problem in electrostatics and the effect of increasing levels of scaffolding on students' representational consistency. Students in calculus-based introductory physics were given a typical problem that can be solved using Gauss's law involving a spherically symmetric charge distribution in which they were asked to write a mathematical expression for the electric field in various regions and then plot the electric field. In study 1, we found that students had great difficulty in plotting the electric field as a function of the distance from the center of the sphere consistent with the mathematical expressions in various regions, and interviews with students suggested possible reasons which may account for this difficulty. Therefore, in study 2, we designed two scaffolding interventions with levels of support which built on each other (i.e., the second scaffolding level built on the first) in order to help students plot their expressions consistently and compared the performance of students provided with scaffolding with a comparison group which was not given any scaffolding support. Analysis of student performance with different levels of scaffolding reveals that scaffolding from an expert perspective beyond a certain level may sometimes hinder student performance and students may not even discern the relevance of the additional support. We provide possible interpretations for these findings based on in-depth, think-aloud student interviews.
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 - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE1524575