Nature, cause and effect of students' intuitive conceptions regarding changes in velocity
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Perceptions of observed phenomena play an important role in information processing and are integral to learning. Unfortunately students’ perceptions based on their everyday-life observations often do not correlate with the formal science conceptions and explanations of phenomena. This finding of physics education research was studied in this work in the realm of kinematics and students’ conceptions regarding changes in velocity. The investigation entailed a questionnaire administered to 797 students and a focus group discussion with 5 students, which were followed by an additional questionnaire answered by 208 students. The first questionnaire indicated the complex nature of the intuitive conception called changes-take-time and its relation to other intuitive conceptions. Possible causes for the occurrence of the changes-take-time perception were qualitatively probed in the focus group discussion. In the discussion, some students relied on their visual observations and perceptions, while others used logical reasoning. The results informed the compilation of an additional short questionnaire to determine whether the qualitative findings of the focus group discussion can be used more generally. Limitations in visual perceptions and differences in perceived and real velocities seem to contribute to the existence and persistence of the changes-take-time and other intuitive conceptions related to changes in velocity. The importance of addressing physics students’ misconceptions at root cause level is emphasized.