Teaching and Learning the Concept of Weightlessness: An Additional Look at Physics Textbooks

  • Jasmina Balukovic Druga Gimnazija Sarajevo
  • Josip Slisko Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla


A recent textbook research, carried out on a sample of 20 American physics textbooks, shows that the authors mainly keep the old definition of weight. According to that definition, the weight of a body is the gravitational force on the body. In such a conceptual frame, the objects in the spaceship are “apparently weightless” because they are still attracted by the Earth’s gravitational force. In addition, almost all authors introduce “apparent weightlessness” using “thought experiment” in which a person finds that her or his “apparent weight” is zero if weighing in a free-falling elevator. The mentioned research was focused on linguistic issues and their role in students’ learning the concepts of “weight”, “weightlessness” and “free fall”. We gave an additional look at 37 physics textbooks in order to analyze the pedagogical treatment of the concept of weightlessness from the point of active physics learning. It is known that students learn physics better when they have multiple opportunities to observe, describe, explain and predict physics phenomena. It was found that only a few authors provide students hands-on and minds-on activities with the concept of weightlessness, limiting their chances to learn it properly. This is a surprising situation because one can find many different demonstrations of free-fall weightlessness published in pedagogical journals that were designed and suggested for their use in physics classrooms.


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How to Cite
BALUKOVIC, Jasmina; SLISKO, Josip. Teaching and Learning the Concept of Weightlessness: An Additional Look at Physics Textbooks. European Journal of Physics Education, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 1, p. 1-14, july 2018. ISSN 1309-7202. Available at: <http://eu-journal.org/index.php/EJPE/article/view/168>. Date accessed: 23 july 2018. doi: https://doi.org/10.20308/ejpe.v9i1.168.