In a recent examination of visual attention in a group of students taking a multiple-choice test of knowledge in kinematics, it was found that only N = 85 upper-secondary level students from Austria and Germany took the single-question multiple-choice question after learning about kinematic diagrams (TUG-K) in their ordinary classroom. The students studied the TUG-K and then went on to answer several other questions about the topic. The results showed that those students who had learned about the diagram used in this study were less able to remember information after the first half of the question, and were less likely to answer the question accurately.
Kinematic diagrams allow the student to see the effect that forces on an object have on it. It also enables the student to see which forces on an object will influence a change in that object’s position.
During World War II, the U.S. military developed a series of computer programs called Kinetic Energy Models (KEM), and used them during the war in order to train its soldiers. They use a model known as the ‘cave-in’ model, and it was found that when the model was used, the soldiers were better at estimating their speeds when traveling up and down slopes. However, there is also a ‘free-fall’ model, which was not used in the war. The main difference between these two models is that the cave-in model has a small drop in the vertical height, while the free-fall model has a much larger drop.
In Kinematics, one of the most important aspects of the diagram is a visual attention, or the ability to understand and remember an object. While it is quite possible for an adult to learn about this theory without someone else having to help them, the more people that have a visual aid to help them, the better the chances of them learning about the subject and what effects kinematics diagrams can have on the object they are trying to grasp.
The students that took the multiple-choice questions about the cave-in model found that they performed worse on the free-fall questions than they did on the multiple-choice questions. For the free-fall questions, the average percentage of correct answers for students taking the multiple-choice questions was about 5%, while the percentage of correct answers for students taking the multiple-choice questions of the cave-in model was just above half that of the multiple-choice questions. This is a rather significant difference and shows that students who had a visual aid to help them remember the diagrams performed worse than the other students.
Students taking the questions about the diagrams were also asked to solve a problem concerning the effect of gravitational attraction between two objects, which can be described as the difference between their location before the gravitational pull and their position after the gravitational pull. After the diagram, they solved this problem using Newton’s equations. They found that students who knew about the diagrams associated with kinematic diagrams solved the problem faster than students who did not know about diagrams. The students that took the multiple-choice questions answered this problem incorrectly a little bit more often than the students that didn’t know about the diagrams.
It has been found that having an example of the diagrams with them when they take the multiple choice questions helps students retain visual attention to the diagrams, and that they learn a lot about the concept of the diagrams when they are able to visualize them. Students who understand what the diagram represents and how it is related to kinematic diagrams are able to do well in school because of it.