Shanaka Piyatissa, Lalitha Waduge


verbally expressed laws, mathematical equations, diagrams, graphs, charts and animations involved in physics which are related to abstract concepts. One aspect of this competence with relevance to physics education is the students’ ability to understand the physics-specific representations in relation to their physical and real-world applications which encompass to static as well as dynamic entities. In this study, attention has been paid to developing, validating and utilizing a lesson-specific assessment tool to identify students’ difficulties in understanding such representations encountered in selected Grade 10 physics-related science lessons presently taught in Sri Lankan government schools, namely, Resultant force, Newton’s laws of motion, Friction and Equilibrium of forces. The tool has been administered as an online test for a sample of 72 selected Grade 11 students who have already completed the lessons in their schools at Grade 10. It consists of 28 multiple-choice questions. It showed a mean score of 52.65% with a standard deviation of 24.94%. The tool gave high reliability (Cronbach's alpha value of 0.795). By analyzing the students’ performance at individual questions of the tool it revealed that the students have certain difficulties in understanding the representations such as the inability to determine the line of action of a force related to a given real-world situation, inability to predict the nature of the motion of an object if the object is acted upon by a constant force continuously, inability to identify difference between the action force and the reaction force mentioned in Newton’s third law of motion which act in two distinct objects, and marking such forces in a free body force diagram. The extent to which the prescribed curriculum materials help the students to overcome these difficulties has been evaluated and some suggested teaching-learning activities have been proposed to improve the students’ representational competence.


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representational competence, physics education, external representations, representation modes, force and motion

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