Date of Award

Fall 5-7-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)




Michael Wittmann

Second Committee Member

MacKenzie Stetzer

Third Committee Member

Franziska Peterson


Energy is a broad concept that is used to interpret and understand scientific phenomena, and appears throughout the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) at all grade levels and across disciplines. The NGSS specifies no single approach for energy instruction, and makes use of different energy metaphors, often within individual standards. Gray, et al. (2019) created a checklist (the “Gray Checklist”) to identify whether or not a diagram exhibits evidence of core constituent ideas that align to the energy model of the NGSS. This study used the Gray Checklist to find trends in student energy diagrams that were produced during a course of ordinary classroom instruction on energy in two college-preparatory physics classes in the Spring of 2019 and the Spring of 2020.

The Gray Checklist effectively detected fulfillment of energy constituent ideas; however, several trends in the diagrams went undetected by the Checklist. Diagrams tended to show organization along temporal or position-based narrative structures, which implies the importance of building the energy state of objects into energy diagrams. Certain diagrams also broke with diagramming protocols in order to express energy tracking ideas that the Gray Checklist construes as a violation of conservation of energy. Diagrams also tended to exhibit use of diverse forms of energy in situations not typical of high school energy instruction.

These results suggest changes to the Gray Checklist and implications for teaching and learning regarding energy instruction and the use of energy diagramming schemes in the classroom. Further implications regarding the NGSS and its energy model are also derived from these results. Future work can include creating performance standards for energy diagrams and developing a paradigm of energy as a modeling technique rather than a static set of content standards in the NGSS.