Student reasoning about the divergence of a vector field
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Expanding our knowledge of student difficulties in advanced undergraduate electromagnetism is essential if we are to develop effective instructional interventions. Drawing on an analysis of course materials, in-class observations and responses to conceptual questions, we document specific resources employed by students when reasoning about the divergence of a vector field. One common student error, which persisted in our course despite explicit instruction, is to misinterpret any "spreading out" of field lines in a diagram as representing a place of non-zero divergence. Some of these student difficulties can likely be attributed to having first learned about the divergence in a mathematical context, where there was little emphasis on graphical representations of vector fields and connections to physical situations.
Baily , C & Astolfi , C 2015 , Student reasoning about the divergence of a vector field . in P V Engelhardt , A D Churukian & D L Jones (eds) , 2014 Physics Education Research Conference . PERC Proceedings , American Association of Physics Teachers , pp. 31-34 , Physics Education Research Conference 2014 , Minneapolis, MN , United States , 30-31 July . DOI: 10.1119/perc.2014.pr.004conference
2014 Physics Education Research Conference
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