Grove City College Professor of Physics Dr. DJ Wagner’s paper on identifying student difficulties with understanding buoyancy and the buoyant force has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the 2017 Physics Education Research Conference.
The paper, “The Prevalence of Selected Buoyancy Alternate Conceptions at Two Colleges,” is co-authored with Dr. P.S. Shaffer of the University of Washington. It describes research begun during Wagner’s sabbatical at the University of Washington in the spring of 2016 and continued at Grove City College during the 2016-17 academic year.
The Grove City College Physics Education Research Group has been working for many years to identify and classify the plethora of alternate conceptions that exist regarding the physics of buoyancy. Since most prior studies involved pre-high-school age children, the research group has simultaneously been conducting studies into the prevalence of various conceptions among college students.
Over 20 Grove City College students have contributed to the project under Wagner’s direction. This publication details a small part of the larger study, in which the prevalence of four seemingly naïve conceptions was measured at both Grove City College and the University of Washington. Despite the expectation that these conceptions would be rarely held in adulthood, a significant fraction of students at both institutions evinced belief in each conception. Knowledge of the prevalence of these student difficulties can inform instructors and guide development of curriculum which addresses the difficulties.