Energy Transferred by Heating
Energy and Thermal Physics

Warming and cooling - Teaching and learning issues

Teaching Guidance for 11-14

The Teaching and Learning Issues presented here explain the challenges faced in teaching a particular topic. The evidence for these challenges are based on: research carried out on the ways children think about the topic; analyses of thinking and learning research; research carried out into the teaching of the topics; and, good reflective practice.

The challenges are presented with suggested solutions. There are also teaching tips which seek to distil some of the accumulated wisdom.

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Things you'll need to decide on as you plan

Energy Transferred by Heating
Energy and Thermal Physics

Things you'll need to decide on as you plan: Warming and Cooling

Teaching Guidance for 11-14

Bringing together two sets of constraints

Focusing on the learners:

Distinguishing–eliciting–connecting. How to:

  • distinguish between things that feel cold and things that are at a low temperature
  • separate out the movement of energy from the movement of particles
  • draw out pupils' reasoning about temperature and thermal energy

Teacher Tip: These are all related to findings about children's ideas from research. The teaching activities will provide some suggestions. So will colleagues, near and far.

Focusing on the physics:

Representing–noticing–recording. How to:

  • separate temperature and thermal energy
  • avoid slogans such as heat rises

Teacher Tip: Connecting what is experienced with what is written and drawn is essential to making sense of the connections between the theoretical world of physics and the lived-in world of the children. Don't forget to exemplify this action.

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Energy and temperature

Temperature
Energy and Thermal Physics

Energy and temperature

Teaching Guidance for 11-14

Temperature depends on energy and mass

Wrong Track: If you warm both things up for the same time, the temperature goes up by the same amount.

Right Lines: If you warm two objects (of the same substance) up for the same time (same amount of energy shifted to each thermal store), the temperature rise depends on the mass of the objects. The same quantity of energy, shared out amongst less mass, gives a bigger temperature rise.

Highlighting the distinction

Thinking about the learning

Pupils often have difficulties recognising the difference between temperature and energy. Temperature is an intensive quantity that does not depend on the mass of material that you have. Energy is an extensive quantity that does depend on the amount of matter involved. The easiest way to picture the difference between the temperature and energy of an object is in terms of a particles model:

  • The temperature of an object depends on the state of motion of its particles: the higher the temperature, the faster moving are the particles (the number of particles does not matter).
  • The amount of energy in the thermal store of an object is related to the state of motion of its particles and the number of particles: more energy involves a larger number of faster moving particles.

Thinking about the teaching

You can helpfully draw attention to the difference between energy and temperature by considering objects with two different masses of the same substance at the same temperature:

'Suppose I run myself a nice, deep, hot bath. I take a plastic cup and scoop some water from the bath. What can you say about the temperature of the water in the bath compared to the temperature of the water in the mug? Yes! It's the same temperature. What can you say about the amount of energy in the thermal store of the bath water compared with the thermal store of the mug? Yes! There is much more energy stored in the bath of water. Just imagine all of those particles moving around. They have the same average speed as the particles in the mug, but there are so many more of them moving about.'

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A teaching story: sparkler versus hot drink

Energy Transferred by Heating
Energy and Thermal Physics

A teaching story: sparkler versus hot drink

Teaching Guidance for 11-14

Feeling the effects of temperature and energy

You are watching a bonfire with a hot drink in one hand and a sparkler in the other. Somebody knocks into you. Which will warm your hand more so causing most pain, the spilt drink or the sparks from the sparkler?

The drink would probably be well under one hundred degrees Celsius whilst the sparks from the sparkler, being white hot metal, are several hundred degrees Celsius.

However the relatively small number of particles in the spark means that it has little energy in its thermal store compared to the drink. So, the spark on your hand is hardly felt whilst spilling the drink most definitely is! The drink warms your skin much more (shifting much more energy) and that is what you feel.

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Heat is not a substance

Energy Transferred by Heating
Energy and Thermal Physics

Heat is not a substance

Teaching Guidance for 11-14

Talking about heating

Wrong Track: When the pan of water is put on the cooker, heat travels through the bottom of the pan and into the water.

Right Lines: When the pan of water is placed on the cooker, heating or warming increases the temperature of the water.

Heat as a state of motion

Thinking about the learning

The underlying problem here is that the wrong track thinking shown here conjures up an image of heat as being like some kind of substance that passes from the cooker into the water. This is not such an unusual idea. Before 1840 scientists believed exactly the same thing and referred to the heat substance as caloric.

For example: When a sailor slides down one of the ropes from the top rigging of a sailing ship, his hands are warmed up as he squeezes caloric from the rope. Nowadays we would simply say that heating is caused by the frictional force between hands and rope.

Of course heat is not a substance, it simply reflects the state of motion of the particles. If some water is heated up, the particles move around more. The image to get over to pupils is one of this heating or warming process.

Thinking about the teaching

Some teachers ban the use of the word heat in their teaching and insist that pupils refer to the heating or warming process. Following the ideas introduced throughout the previous episodes, we would advise that there is no need to refer to heat at all. Take, as an example, the case of a person warming their hands around a hot mug of soup.

Unhelpful way of thinking: Heat passes from the soup through the mug and into your hands.

Helpful way of thinking: Energy is shifted from the thermal store of the soup to the thermal store of your hands. This happens through the process of conduction which involves the warming by particles pathway.

The word heat is very commonly used in everyday speech. For example, we might say shut that door and keep the heat in! In all such cases, you might challenge the pupils to explain what they mean by heat: It's just the state of movement of the particles.

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Heat rises

Energy Transferred by Heating
Energy and Thermal Physics

Heat rises

Teaching Guidance for 11-14

Air does the rising

Wrong Track: Switch the gas heater on. Then heat rises out of the top of it.

Right Lines: When the gas heater is switched on, the air above it is warmed up and rises.

Convection

Thinking about the teaching

The idea of heat rising is very common in everyday speech and adds to the notion of heat being some kind of substance. In teaching about convection, it is therefore important to refer explicitly to the air being warmed up, reducing in density and rising through the colder surrounding air. That's why convection currents are a part of floating and sinking in the SPT: Forces topic.

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Thinking about actions to take

Energy Transferred by Heating
Energy and Thermal Physics

Thinking about actions to take: Warming and Cooling

Teaching Guidance for 11-14

There's a good chance you could improve your teaching if you were to:

Try these

  • using the idea of a thermal store as the basis for exploring temperature
  • explicitly describing where the energy is before and after a process

Teacher Tip: Work through the Physics Narrative to find these lines of thinking worked out and then look in the Teaching Approaches for some examples of activities.

Avoid these

  • heat rises
  • conflating power and energy
  • mixing up descriptions about processes with those about snapshots, which define the beginning and end of the process

Teacher Tip: These difficulties are distilled from: the research findings; the practice of well-connected teachers with expertise; issues intrinsic to representing the physics well.

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