Pre-service physics teachers' mental models about the electric field


EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS, vol.43, no.2, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 43 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1088/1361-6404/ac41da
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Aerospace Database, Compendex, INSPEC, zbMATH, DIALNET
  • Keywords: electric field, mental model, model states, pre-service physics teachers, STUDENTS
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


This paper identifies pre-service physics teachers' mental models of the concept of the electric field. The models were determined by means of five contexts all of which were supported with sets of experiments. The contexts examined were (1) the effect of the electric field on the insulator, (2) the comparison of the conductor and insulator in the electric field, (3) the effect of the electric field on the neutral conductor and insulator, (4) the effect of the electric field on the conductor liquid, and (5) the effect of the conductor and insulators materials forming a closed surface on the electric field. Semi-structured interviews related to the contexts were conducted with the 22 pre-service physics teachers. The data collected throughout the interviews were put to content analysis and thus, the pre-service teachers' mental models were identified. In total, six mental models were identified. One model was a scientific model (scientific model of the electric field) and five of which were unscientific models (magnetic-based field model, mechanical wave model, material independent field model, force-free field model and force-based field model) were identified. It became apparent as a result of document analysis that several unscientific mental models were also included in resource books. Approximately one and a half years later, almost all students were interviewed again about the contexts so as to find whether or not their models were permanent or not. Following the interviews, their mental models were found to be quite permanent and to be time-independent.