The educational value of Maxwell's approach to electromagnetism, from the foundations of the concept of field to the formulation of interdisciplinary problems

Vernazza, Niccolo (2019) The educational value of Maxwell's approach to electromagnetism, from the foundations of the concept of field to the formulation of interdisciplinary problems, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Fisica, 29 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/9077.
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After a large and systematic review of the studies on the teaching/learning electromagnetism, two main research issues have been selected and addressed in this research work. The first one concerns the automatisms that typical exercises induce and prevent students to capture the real change produced by electromagnetism in the model of interaction. The second study concerns a detailed conceptual, historical and epistemological analysis introduced by the concept of field by Maxwell. The main results I obtained are the following. As for the first study, I found out a general tendency shown by university students and teachers to solve exercises: the tendency to find the result with the minimum effort. I called this attitude economy principle. On the basis of these four manifestations, I designed both a guide to support a systematic and reflective analysis of the text of a problem, and a problem posing activity. As for the second study, I made an historical research to stress in what sense the field theory was built in the eighteenth century in order to overcome the Newtonian approach to interaction “in term of forces”. I described a model, abandoned for a long time, based on the existence of a particular kind of aether, which is able to present the electromagnetic field as a real object, whose lines of force represent, mathematically, its properties of interaction. This analysis of Maxwell papers provides the basis for a new possible way to re-think of the teaching of electromagnetism, aimed to support the formalism with a conceptual and epistemological reflection on the model of interaction introduced by the concept of field. Fields gain a mathematical form in Maxwell’s equations. From our research emerges what we called compensation principle, as a new form of mechanism that could explain electromagnetic interaction.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Vernazza, Niccolo
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Didattica dell'elettromagnetismo; Maxwell; etere.
Data di discussione
18 Marzo 2019

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