Contrasting students' understanding of electric field and electric force uri icon


  • © 2013 American Institute of Physics. Students may have greater difficulties in understanding electric interactions because they have less day to day experience with them than with mechanics. There may also be differences in understanding of different electric concepts like electric force and field. This study presents the results of students' responses to two sequences of superposition principle isomorphic questions in which the only difference was that in one of the sequences, the electric force was used and in the other, the electric field. We administered one of the sequences to 249 students at a large private Mexican university after covering electrostatics in an Electricity and Magnetism class. The students' answers, reasoning and drawings were analyzed. We found that students who took the force sequence were better able to correctly answer the questions using the superposition principle than those students with the field sequence. The analysis of the students' reasoning and drawings helped us to examine their understanding of electric field and the use of electric field lines.

Publication date

  • January 1, 2013