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Exploring students' understanding of reference frames and time in Galilean and special relativity

C. de Hosson 1 I. Kermen 1 E. Parizot 2
2 APC - AHE - APC - Astrophysique des Hautes Energies
APC (UMR_7164) - AstroParticule et Cosmologie, Dipartimento di Astronomia, Universita degli Studi di Bologna
Abstract : This paper aims at exploring prospective physics teachers' reasoning associated with the concepts of reference frame, time and event which form the framework of the classical kinematics and that of the relativistic kinematics. About 100 prospective physics teachers were surveyed by means of a questionnaire involving classical kinematics situations and relativistic ones. The analysis of the answers shows a deep lack of understanding of both concepts of reference frame and event. Some students think that events may be simultaneous for an observer and not simultaneous for another one, even when both observers are located in the same reference frame. Most of the students surveyed cannot give an answer only depending on the location of the observer when his/her velocity is mentioned as if the movement contaminated the event. This lack of understanding is embodied in reasoning implemented by the population surveyed to address classical kinematics questions and seems to form a major obstacle to grasping relativistic kinematics.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - 4:53:47 PM
Last modification on : Monday, November 30, 2020 - 3:11:05 PM

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C. de Hosson, I. Kermen, E. Parizot. Exploring students' understanding of reference frames and time in Galilean and special relativity. European Journal of Physics, European Physical Society, 2010, 31, pp.1527-1538. ⟨10.1088/0143-0807/31/6/017⟩. ⟨in2p3-00728031⟩

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