Date of Award

Summer 6-14-2014

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Jeff Keuss

First Advisor/Committee Member

Amy Roberston

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Stamatis Vokos


Physics, education, energy, metaphor


This study explores the instructional advantages and disadvantages of representing energy as a material substance; this is done in the context of a computer simulation that illustrates processes of energy transfer and transformation. These affordances and limitations have been proposed in science education literature as extensions of the substance metaphor itself, but there is little empirical evidence to support them. This study is intended to provide preliminary empirical evidence for these affordances and limitations. We examine data from eight interviews conducted with students from Seattle Pacific University’s introductory physics classes as they used the simulation. We explore the hypotheses that (i) student and (ii) instructional use of the substance metaphor promote specific affordances and limitations mentioned in the literature. We compare the language used and the affordances and limitations demonstrated by students as they interact with two forms of the simulation: one with an explicit substance metaphor and one without.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Program


Copyright Status

Additional Rights Information
Copyright held by author.