Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism

Making links between the real world and theory

Teaching Guidance for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

Link the phenomena to the theory

Electric circuits provide lots of learning challenges for students as they come to understand how these circuits work. Furthermore, all of the concepts that we use to describe and explain circuit behaviour are theoretical in nature: it's not possible, for example, to see an electric current, and to count how much charge passes, or how many charge particles pass, each second.

With this in mind, we strongly advise that your teaching takes the students explicitly back and forth between the reality of bulbs and wires and the world of theory.

For example, in returning to this work on electric circuits after quite a gap in time from dealing with electricity topics in 11–14 studies, make sure that you have the practical apparatus to hand as you talk through the ideas:

Teacher: So, here we have the power supply, a lamp and some connectors. We can set the power supply… there… to 12 volt… it's fixed. Connect up the bulb to the supply. There's nothing to adjust with the bulb… it's just a resistor. Switch on and the current here [teacher points] depends on the voltage and the bulb resistance. I can select a supply voltage or a different kind of bulb, but I can't directly select a current.

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