“Never at rest”: developing a conceptual framework for descriptions of ‘force’ in physics textbooks
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionNordic Studies in Science Education. 2020, 16 (2), 183-198. 10.5617/nordina.7857
The concept of ‘force’ is abstract and challenging for many physics students, and many studies have revealed misconceptions that hinder students’ understanding and learning in classical physics. One reason for this may be the multifaceted nature of the concept and how textbooks give different definitions and explanations depending on the context. In this article, we present a framework of eight categories for how the concept is described, based on fundamental principles in physics, their historical sources and an analysis of how ‘force’ is described in four physics textbooks used in upper secondary schools in Norway. Examples from one of the textbooks that constituted the empirical basis for the framework are given. These reveal that textbooks may present students with a variety of definitions and explanations of ‘force’. It is argued that students should be made aware of this variability in order to support their motivation and learning in physics, but also to understand the complex and evolving nature of the force concept and other important concepts in physics.