Full Length Research Paper
The effect of student use of the free-body diagram representation on their performance
Ayesh*,1, N. Qamhieh1, N. Tit1, and F. Abdelfattah2
1Department of Physics, U.A.E. University, P.O. Box: 17555, Al-Ain, U.A.E
2Psychology Departments, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia.
*Corresponding author E-mail: Ayesh@uaeu.ac.ae
Received 27 September, 2010; Accepted 29 October, 2010
Multiple representations (such as pictures, words, diagrams, and graphs) were found by many researchers in the physics education field to enhance the students’ ability to understand the physical concepts. Free-body diagram is a method of the multiple representations and it is defined as the pictorial representation in problems involving forces. In the literature available on physics education, little research has been found concerning the effects of using free-body diagrams on student performance at the college level. The purpose of this investigation is to address and explore the effects of using free-body diagrams on the test results of freshman-engineering students at the university level. This study was conducted using a sample of engineering students taking the introductory-physics course on Newtonian mechanics. The quantitative investigation showed that students who draw correct free-body diagrams while solving a physics problem are likely to solve the problem correctly, while students who draw wrong diagrams are likely to fail in solving the problem. 85% of our students used the free-body diagram representation, although they did not receive any credit for that use, which shows the students’ awareness of the importance of the free-body diagram representation.
Keywords: Free-body diagram, physics education, and Newtonian mechanics education