In this article we report a study whose objective was to use conceptual diagrams, together with expositive and demonstrative lessons, aiming to promote significant learning of physics of waves, acoustics and optics at the high school level. "Reference Diagrams", based on Joseph Novak's strategy of conceptual maps, were elaborated. Two groups, each one with twenty-five pupils participated of the study. One group developed the activities with conceptual maps and the other one followed traditional activities such as thumbnails, resolution of problems and exercises in physics. The qualitative analysis of student diagrams elaborated showed conceptual deficiencies and demonstrated that, at the end of the semester, the new conceptual diagrams elaborated have higher level compared to the first ones in the sense that the students were able to present clearly their ideas, elaborate propositions and reach conclusions. An personal survey showed that students approved the use of this didactic resource.
conceptual diagrams; significant learning; physics education