Title page for ETD etd-06052007-105431

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Quebedeaux, James Edward
URN etd-06052007-105431
Title Improving High School Physical Science Students' Understanding of the Electromagnetic Spectrum: A Modified Diagram Approach
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Curriculum & Instruction
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
James Wandersee Committee Chair
Earl Cheek Committee Member
Pamela Blanchard Committee Member
Rita Culross Committee Member
Robert O'Connell Dean's Representative
  • electromagnetic spectrum
  • visual cognition
  • physical science
  • physics
Date of Defense 2007-04-27
Availability unrestricted

The focus of this study was to identify major conceptual difficulties that selected public high school physical science students encounter in understanding a standard electromagnetic spectrum diagram. A research-driven, modified version of that standard diagram was used in this study to determine the value added to student understanding of electromagnetic waves. A content analysis was performed on electromagnetic spectrum diagrams found in US textbooks from the 1950s through the present. A class of public high school physical science students participated in a study consisting of four activities conducted during a three-week unit. Students were given a pre- and post-achievement test and a pre- and post-survey on the regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. At the conclusion of each activity, selected students were interviewed and each co-constructed a concept map with the researcher. The Electromagnetic Spectrum Literacy Rubric (ESLR) was designed and used to assess studentsí conceptual understanding periodically as they proceeded through the unit study. A mixed methods analysis was performed, employing both qualitative and quantitative data. A paired t- test determined that there was a statistically significant difference (p = 0.014) between the pre- and post-achievement test scores for the class of students participating in the unit study. Effect sizes also determined that students have difficulties with mathematical calculations and wave properties. These topics present conceptual challenges which must be overcome to understand and use an electromagnetic spectrum diagram effectively.

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