Devices used in examination questions: (a) a proposed heat engine, (b) a proposed refrigerator, and (c) a device that is neither (referred to in the article as the “strange device”). Students were asked if the devices could function as shown and to explain their reasoning.
A proposed heat engine featured in the tutorial Heat engines and the second law of thermodynamics (entropy version).
A proposed device featured in the tutorial Heat engines and the second law of thermodynamics (entropy version).
The device featured in the “complex-engine question.” Students were asked if the device satisfies the first and second laws of thermodynamics.
Results for the device questions (Fig. 1). Some students were given a problem with all three devices; others had only the heat engine. Percentages are for correct answers with correct reasoning. All results were obtained on course examinations after all relevant standard instruction had been completed.
Types of correct reasoning used on the heat-engine question after various forms of instruction. All results were obtained on course examinations after all relevant instruction had been completed.
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