This paper presents findings on the effectiveness of a new approach to teaching energy which includes the concept of fields. While energy is a central concept in physics, students often struggle with the energy concept, especially the aspect of potential energy. Conceptualizing potential energy as energy stored in fields allows a physically correct and yet illustrative explanation of the properties of potential energy that are confusing to students. Therefore, we have developed and tested an approach that integrates fields into introductory energy instruction. For this purpose, we enhanced the traditional forms-based approach. In a quasi-experimental study, we then taught one group of students (N = 43) using the traditional forms-based approach and one group (N = 47) using the enhanced approach, which conceptualizes potential energy forms as energy stored in respective fields. In addition to cognitive abilities as a covariate, we measured understanding of the concepts of energy and fields as dependent variables. The results show that the students of the enhanced approach perform worse in the energy test compared to the students of the traditional approach. However, an examination of the effect of the field understanding on the effect of the intervention reveals that students taught using the enhanced approach understand key aspects of the field concept and that this understanding could have a positive impact on their understanding of energy. The results suggest that the field concept may be a means of developing a better understanding of energy, whose impact on future learning about energy should be further investigated.
Translated title of the contributionGiving potential energy a home—Fields as a didactic tool in introductory energy instruction
Original languageGerman
Article number6
JournalZeitschrift für Didaktik der Naturwissenschaften
Publication statusPublished - 12.2022

    Research areas

  • Domain-specific learning in kindergarten and school - Energy, Fields, Energy understanding, Potential energy, Forms-based approach

ID: 1845239