Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The focus of this study was to identify major conceptual difficulties that selected public high school physical science students encounter in understanding a standard electromagnetic spectrum diagram. A research-driven, modified version of that standard diagram was used in this study to determine the value added to student understanding of electromagnetic waves. A content analysis was performed on electromagnetic spectrum diagrams found in US textbooks from the 1950s through the present. A class of public high school physical science students participated in a study consisting of four activities conducted during a three-week unit. Students were given a pre- and post-achievement test and a pre- and post-survey on the regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. At the conclusion of each activity, selected students were interviewed and each co-constructed a concept map with the researcher. The Electromagnetic Spectrum Literacy Rubric (ESLR) was designed and used to assess students’ conceptual understanding periodically as they proceeded through the unit study. A mixed methods analysis was performed, employing both qualitative and quantitative data. A paired t- test determined that there was a statistically significant difference (p = 0.014) between the pre- and post-achievement test scores for the class of students participating in the unit study. Effect sizes also determined that students have difficulties with mathematical calculations and wave properties. These topics present conceptual challenges which must be overcome to understand and use an electromagnetic spectrum diagram effectively.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

James Wandersee



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