Students' misconceptions about Newton's second law in outer space

Temiz B. K., Yavuz A.

EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS, vol.35, no.4, 2014 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


Students' misconceptions about Newton's second law in frictionless outer space were investigated. The research was formed according to an epistemic game theoretical framework. The term 'epistemic' refers to students' participation in problem-solving activities as a means of constructing new knowledge. The term 'game' refers to a coherent activity that consists of moves and rules. A set of questions in which students are asked to solve two similar Newton's second law problems, one of which is on the Earth and the other in outer space, was administered to 116 undergraduate students. The findings indicate that there is a significant difference between students' epistemic game preferences and race-type (outer space or frictional surface) question. So students who used Newton's second law on the ground did not apply this law and used primitive reasoning when it came to space. Among these students, voluntary interviews were conducted with 18 students. Analysis of interview transcripts showed that: (1) the term 'space' causes spontaneity among students that prevents the use of the law; (2) students hesitate to apply Newton's second law in space due to the lack of a condition-the friction; (3) students feel that Newton's second law is not valid in space for a variety of reasons, but mostly for the fact that the body in space is not in contact with a surface.