A mental model (MM) is an internal representation of students’ conceptual understanding.Currently, studentshave still had difficulties in explaining the physical state of elasticity of solid materials, at sub-microscopic level. These difficulties call forthis research. Through a mixed method, the study aimed to reveal the development and differences of students’mental models after physics learning with problem -based learning (PBL) and conventional methods. Indicators of students’ mental modelswere adapted from SMD model. Findings suggested thatthe PBL resulted in moreMM, whilst conventional classes emerged MM on theelastic and plastic objects. Meanwhile, the lowest MM achievements ware Hooke’s Lawfor the PBL,and series and parallel springsfor the conventional class. N-Gain values of the students’mental models at PBL and conventional classes were found to be 0.64 and 0.43respectively. On the other hand, mental modelscores of the PBL learning model was higher(23.77%) than those of the conventional learning model. Thus, it can be concludedthat the PBL learning model is effective in improving the students’ mental models of physics. This research recommends that students’ understanding of physics conceptsshould be increasedat macroscopicand sub-microscopic levels.
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