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Issue 4, 2016
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An ontological and epistemological analysis of the presentation of the first law of thermodynamics in school and university textbooks

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Abstract

Considering the relevance of thermodynamics to the scientific discipline of chemistry and the curriculum of the Western school system, the philosophical system of Mario Bunge, particularly his ontology and epistemology, is used herein to analyze the presentation of the first law of thermodynamics in 15 school and university textbooks. The ontological analysis shows that the concepts heat “q” and work “w” are categorized as processes, while the concepts of internal energy “U”, pressure “P”, volume “V” and temperature “T” are categorized as properties. The results reveal that 8 of the 15 textbooks incorrectly present work “w” as a property, while 7 textbooks incorrectly present heat “q” as a property. Furthermore, 3 textbooks present the concept of energy as a property and assign it a merely operational definition as the capacity to do work. The analysis also examined patterns of causality and the mechanism used to explain the connection between the variables of cause and effect in three thermodynamic systems. The results indicated that only 2 textbooks contain such a mechanism.

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Article information


Submitted
09 May 2016
Accepted
30 Jul 2016
First published
30 Jul 2016

Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2016,17, 1041-1053
Article type
Paper
Author version available

An ontological and epistemological analysis of the presentation of the first law of thermodynamics in school and university textbooks

J. C. Poblete, R. O. Rojas, C. Merino and W. Quiroz, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2016, 17, 1041
DOI: 10.1039/C6RP00105J

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