An investigation into student understanding of longitudinal standing waves

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This study investigates the difficulties that introductory university physics students have with the concept of longitudinal standing waves in the context of standing waves in pipes. My goal is to identify difficulties that persist even after standard instruction on longitudinal standing waves and attempt to improve upon that method of instruction. The study follows a four-step design. I first use exploratory surveys and interviews with students to elicit the difficulties present in students' understanding of longitudinal standing waves in pipes. I then use the information gained to create and assessment instrument, the Standing Waves Diagnostic Test, and a curricular intervention, the Longitudinal Standing Waves Tutorial. I then undertake a three-step process of pre-testing students with the Standing Wave Diagnostic Test, intervention with the Longitudinal Standing Waves Tutorial, and post-testing again with the Standing Wave Diagnostic Test to determine the impact of the intervention. This is then compared to data from students in classes where the intervention is not used. Students using the intervention significantly outperform their non-intervention counterparts on the Standing Wave Diagnostic Test. The results of the students pre- and post-tests indicate that significant improvement in students' understandings of longitudinal standing waves can be achieved by the use of the tutorial.




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