A didactic study of teaching basic aspects of electrostatics in teacher training

Universidad de Sevilla, Spain

Supervisor: Dr D. Pedro Cañal de León

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The thesis is part of a line of research on students' conceptions together with the proposal of the implementation of a teaching unit. The evolution of those conceptions and the development of the teaching unit are analyzed. The intention is to address the general problem of how to improve the teaching and learning of the basics of electrostatics by undergraduates with a view to their education as prospective teachers.

Attention is paid to the construction of the conceptions' cognitive status, understood as the students' cognitive commitment to their existing ideas, and which can be measured by such indicators as their degree of dependence on the context, etc.

After a theoretical study analyzing the difficulties and their possible solutions, the problems to address are established as:

  1. What conceptions do the group of students studied have on the basics of electrostatics at the different times of measurement?
  2. What are the characteristics of these conceptions (degree of structure, stability, dependence on context, etc.) at the different times of measurement?
  3. How do these conceptions evolve in relation to the development of a teaching unit?

The study was conducted with 52 students in the 'General Physics' course of Teacher Education. The instruments used were a questionnaire and 'answer sheets' for the activities of the unit. The techniques used were a descriptive analysis, and bivariate and multivariate analyses.


Simple experiments were done to study how the students use the meaning of the concepts of charged and neutral to interpret the processes of electrification, of attraction and repulsion between two charged bodies, and of electrostatic induction in a neutral body by a charged body.

The analysis of the indicators of cognitive status showed that there were differences between concepts depending on the status of the ideas used to interpret them. Those that involve less difficulty (the appropriate responses have a higher status) were the interpretation of 'attraction between charged bodies' and the concept of 'neutral'. At the other extreme were the interpretations of 'electrostatic induction in a neutral body by a charged body' and 'electrifying metals'. For the former, the explanation with greatest status presumed that 'both bodies are charged', and for the latter that metals 'can not be electrified by rubbing them with insulators'. In an intermediate situation were the interpretations of the meaning of 'charged' and of 'electrostatic repulsion'. For the former, confusion with a 'polarized neutral' body, or the idea that in a charged body the 'particles become strongly agitated' competed tenaciously with the scientific meaning, and for the latter, the alternative conception that most rivaled the scientific explanation was the belief that 'both are polarized neutral bodies'.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Dpto. Didáctica de las Ciencias. Univ. Sevilla.
Avda.Ciudad Jardín 22. 41005-Sevilla. Spain. (+34) 954 559765. FAX. 954 645861

References in Spanish

CRIADO, A y CAÑAL, P. (2001) La Estructuración del Conocimiento Escolar: el Caso de la Electrostática. Reflexiones Sobre la Didáctica de las Ciencias Experimentales (pág. 532-540). Madrid: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. ISBN: 84-699-4414-2

CRIADO, A.M. y CAÑAL, P. (2002) Obstáculos para aprender conceptos elementales de electrostática y propuestas educativas. Investigación en la Escuela, 47, 53-63. ISSN:0113-7771.

CRIADO, A.M. y CAÑAL, P (2002) La Identificación de Fenómenos Electrostáticos Cotidianos Por Estudiantes de Magisterio. Alambique, 32, 32-38. ISSN: 1133-9837.

CRIADO, A.M. y CAÑAL, P (2003) Investigación de Algunos Indicadores del Estatus Cognitivo de las Concepciones Sobre el Estado Eléctrico. Enseñanza de las Ciencias: Revista de Investigación y Experiencias Didácticas, Núm. EXTRA, 29-41. ISSN: 0212-4521

Doctor Studies Filter


New Project 2020 10 15T091940.030

Online ESERA 2021 Conference

Visit Esera 2021