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Vectors - Barniol and Zavala, 2014

Barniol, P., & Zavala, G. (2014). Test of understanding of vectors: A reliable multiple-choice vector concept test. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 10(1), 010121-1-010121-14.

Barniol and Zavala describe a really nicely designed investigative project. In the first phase they conducted several studies over a period of four years, using open-ended problems in order to develop a taxonomy of frequent errors students make when solving vector problems. At the same time, they sought references in the literature to frequent vector errors. In the second phase, they developed a test in multiple choice format, named the “test of understanding of vectors" (TUV). They administered this test to over 400 physics students and thereafter observed the categories of errors and the frequencies of errors in different classes of problems.

I really admire the TUV, the preliminary work that went into designing it and the detailed analysis of the errors made. I feel the authors left the “so what?” question up to the reader, making a few minor suggestions about other people using the test in similar ways, but not making any broad assertions about teaching or learning or cognitive concept formation. I hope Barniol and Zavala have written further on this topic, as the work laid out in this paper is admirable and provides much food for thought.

Do not treat this blog entry as a replacement for reading the paper. This blog post represents the understandings and opinions of Torquetum only and could contain errors, misunderstandings or subjective views.