Skip to main content
Textbook treatments and students' understanding of acceleration
Journal of Research in Science Teaching (1993)
  • Gloria Dall'Alba
  • Eleanor Walsh, La Trobe University
  • John Bowden
  • Elaine Martin
  • Geoff N Masters, ACER
  • Paul Ramsden, University of Melbourne
  • Andrew Stephanou, ACER

A single science textbook often provides the syllabus for courses at upper secondary and tertiary levels, and may be used as a principal source of information or explanation. The research reported in this article challenges such practices. The ways in which the concept, acceleration, is treated in physics textbooks is compared with understandings of the concept demonstrated by final-year secondary (Year 12) and first-year university students. Some students’ understandings are shown to be incomplete in ways that parallel misleading or inaccurate textbook treatments of the concept. In addition to misleading or inaccurate statements, the limitations of some textbook treatments of acceleration were found to include: lack of attempts to make explicit relationships with other concepts, failure to point out when it is appropriate to use particular definitions or that an alternative definition might be more appropriate in specific situations.

  • Acceleration,
  • Physics,
  • Science,
  • Education,
  • Scientific concepts,
  • Textbook content,
  • Misconceptions,
  • First year students,
  • Gravity,
  • Teaching,
  • Secondary school science,
  • Universities,
  • Year 12
Publication Date
September, 1993
Citation Information
Gloria Dall'Alba, Eleanor Walsh, John Bowden, Elaine Martin, et al.. "Textbook treatments and students' understanding of acceleration" Journal of Research in Science Teaching Vol. 30 Iss. 7 (1993)
Available at: