History of Physics and Conceptual Constructions: The Case of Magnetism

Lambrini Voutsina, Konstantinos Ravanis


This study documents the mental representations of magnetism constructed bystudents aged 15‐17 and attempts to investigate whether these display the characteristics of models with an inner cohesiveness and constancy; whether they share common featureswith typical historical models of the Sciences; and whether they evolve through conventionalteaching. Using the part of the history of physics that refers to magnetism and the researchdata available, we put together a questionnaire and carried out structured interviews with a total of 40 students from the 10th and 11th grades. The results showed that a small number of students is able to express reasoning within the framework of a structured model bywhich to approach magnetic phenomena and that this reasoning changes according to theteaching received. We also observed similarities between some of the students’representations and those of scientists from the past, though not of a wide range.

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