Few students use ideas about energy and energy conservation and are more likely to use ideas like speed or force

Energy and Thermal Physics | Forces and Motion


Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

The below diagnostic questions focus on energy transfer. If students are uncomfortable using ideas about energy and energy conservation, it may well be highlighted by these questions. 

Resources to Address This

  • Shifting and conserving energy (11-14)

    Remember to distinguish between the observations, the physics story and the energy story. This resource involves recognising that when one energy store empties, another energy store elsewhere must be filled. The energy is just shifted from store to store. Energy is not used up but is conserved.

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  • Neumann, K.; Viering, T.; Boone, W. J. and Fischer, H. E. () Towards a Learning Progression of Energy, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 50, (2) 162-188.

    This German empirical study on a learning progression of energy describes how 1,856 students’ understanding (ages 10-14) and literacy progress as they study. They map students’ development in key areas such as ‘energy forms’, ‘energy transformations’, ‘dissipation’ and ‘conservation’ during their education.

    Paper digestt

  • Finegold, M. and Trumper, R. () Categorizing pupils' explanatory frameworks in energy as a means to the development of a teaching approach, Research in Science Education, 19, 97-110.

    Secondary school students have a wide range of different ideas about energy, many of which do not match those in physics. These non-scientific conceptions are often founded due to the use of everyday language which is significantly different to the language used in physics lessons. To overcome these limitations the authors suggest using an approach which pits everyday descriptions against more scientific approaches, directly challenging the students to form new mental models and to use specific language.

    Paper digest

  • Legett, M. () Lessons that non-scientists can teach us about the concept of energy: a human-centred approach, Physics Education, 38, 130.

    An Australian researcher explored energy issues (particularly renewability and sustainability) with non-scientists within the community aged 30-50. They found that participants’ energy concepts were multifaceted, with most having a strong personal component but also social, technical, and cosmic dimensions.

    Paper digest

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