We report on students’ thinking regarding entropy in an introductory calculus-based physics course. We analyzed students’ responses to a variety of questions on entropy changes of an arbitrarily defined system and its surroundings. In four offerings of the same course we found that before instruction, no more than 6% of all students could give completely correct responses to relevant questions posed in both general and concrete contexts. Nearly two-thirds of the students showed clear evidence of conservation-type reasoning regarding entropy. These outcomes were little changed even after instruction. Targeted instruction that guided students to recognize that entropy is not a conserved quantity appears to yield improved performance on qualitative questions related to this concept.
Student ideas regarding entropy and the second law of thermodynamics in an introductory physics course
Warren M. Christensen, David E. Meltzer, C. A. Ogilvie; Student ideas regarding entropy and the second law of thermodynamics in an introductory physics course. Am. J. Phys. 1 October 2009; 77 (10): 907–917. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.3167357
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