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Analysis of College Students' Understanding of Energy Changes in a System Undergoing a Thermodynamic Process
New Phys.: Sae Mulli 2018; 68: 397~410
Published online April 30, 2018;
© 2018 New Physics: Sae Mulli.

Youngrae JI1, Jinwoong SONG*1,2

1 Department of Physics Education, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea
2 Center for Educational Research, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea
Correspondence to:
Received January 8, 2018; Revised February 27, 2018; Accepted March 9, 2018.
cc This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This study was conducted to analyze students' understanding of the energy change of the system undergoing a thermodynamic process and to draw implications for physics teaching and learning. The purpose of this study was to analyze the responses of 7 semi-structured questionnaires to 34 undergraduate students. First, students explained the energy change of the system caused by work, volume change, heat transfer, average kinetic energy, etc. However, attempts to explain the changes by using the same physical quantities led to different results according to the interpretation of the students. Second, students explained the energy change of the system mainly through energy transfer caused by work, but they did not understand the definition of work in thermodynamics; i.e., that a force must exist on the boundary and the boundary must move. Third, students did not clearly distinguish between open, closed, isolated, and adiabatic systems and tended to classify systems based on whether they interacted with the outside. Based on the results of this study, some suggestions for the teaching and the learning of thermodynamics are presented.
PACS numbers: 01.40.Fk
Keywords: Thermodynamics, System, Energy, Force, College student

April 2018, 68 (4)
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