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Good use of a ‘bad’ metaphor: Entropy as disorder
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Didactics)
2017 (English)In: Science & Education, ISSN 0926-7220, E-ISSN 1573-1901, Vol. 26, no 3, p. 205-214Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Entropy is often introduced to students through the use of the disorder metaphor. However, many weaknesses and limitations of this metaphor have been identified, and it has therefore been argued that it is more harmful than useful in teaching. For instance, under the influence of the disorder metaphor, students tend to focus on spatial configuration with regard to entropy but disregard the role of energy, which may lead their intuition astray in problem solving. Albeit so, a review of research of students’ ideas about entropy in relation to the disorder metaphor shows that students can use the metaphor in developing a more nuanced, complex view of the concept, by connecting entropy as disorder to other concepts such as microstates and spreading. The disorder metaphor—in combination with other explanatory approaches—can be used as a resource for learning, in giving students an early flavour of what entropy means, so long as we acknowledge its limitations; we can put this “bad” metaphor to good use in teaching.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 26, no 3, p. 205-214
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-326027DOI: 10.1007/s11191-017-9892-4ISI: 000404238300002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-326027DiVA, id: diva2:1118221
Available from: 2017-06-30 Created: 2017-06-30 Last updated: 2018-09-03Bibliographically approved

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