Elijah, Peter, and Michael publish on teacher knowledge of acceleration

Middle School Physics Teachers’ Content Knowledge of Acceleration

Elijah Tabachnick, Peter Colesworthy, and Michael C. Wittmann
Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings 2017

In the “speed model” of accelerated motion, the terms “speeding up” and “slowing down” are equated with positive and negative acceleration, respectively. As part of the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership, we have investigated middle school physical science teachers’ understanding of accelerated motion in the context of using vectors as a pictorial tool for kinematics and found a high prevalence of the speed model. Through surveys, interviews, and observation of professional development activities, we have found that the teachers consistently use the correct mathematical tools to talk about displacements and velocities, and correctly use vectors to represent displacements, velocities and accelerations. However, when interpreting the acceleration of an object, teachers often use the speed model, which contradicts their other work. We discuss this result and present two conjectures about its possible origin.

Physics Education Research Conference 2017
Part of the PER Conference series
Cincinnati, OH: July 26-27, 2017
Pages 384-387

DOI: 10.1119/perc.2017.pr.091

Link to UMaine PERL article archive:  Tabachnick Colesworthy Wittmann on teacher knowledge of acceleration