5 Misconceptions with Newtons 1st and 2nd Laws

As part of a research proposal I am putting together for my ETEC 500 course, over the past week or so I have read a lot of papers that deal with the topic of conceptual change in science students.  Although not all articles showed the same causal effect of addressing common misconceptions of students, the evidence from these papers makes it very compelling for teachers to implement some type of conceptual change model.  For those that have studied learning theories, this shouldn’t be very surprising. I believe it was Piaget that first put together some basic theories on developmental and cognitive change.  From this, other ideas such as schemas, assimilation, accommodation and discrepant events helped form conceptual change models.

Right then, enough of the uber-boring stuff. I read on Frank Noschese’s blog Action-Reaction some of the work done by Derek Muller.  I downloaded one of the Muller’s research papers and came across something that physics teachers would find useful. Granted, many (most?) physics teachers are probably aware of this but you never.  Muller had researched misconceptions around Newton’s First and Second Laws, and these are the most common ones (Muller, 2008):

  • believing an unbalanced force is required to keep an object moving with constant velocity;
  • confusing velocity and acceleration;
  • confusing position and velocity;
  • confusing momentum with force; and
  • believing that an increasing force is required to achieve constant acceleration.

Reading through Muller’s research, he gives a very compelling case for implementing for why all physics teachers should somehow discuss each of these misconceptions in class.

Muller, D., Bewes, J., Sharma, M., & Reimann, P. (2007). Saying the wrong thing: improving learning with multimedia by including misconceptions. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(2), 144-155. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00248.x