Many pupils see falling as ‘natural’ and not requiring an explanation.

Forces and Motion

Misconception RESEARCH REVIEW

Diagnostic Resources

Resource to Address This

  • Falling all over the world (5-11)

    Source - SPT/ Mf01TA03

    Children often have a very local understanding of the word down. In this resource we invite them to consider what down might mean for children in different places on this planet.

    View Resource
  • How things fall (5-11)

    Source - SPT/ Mf01TA03

    This is a focussing activity, that shows the wide variety of things that fall in the children's everyday environment, and begins to develop a range of descriptions for these falls.

    View Resource
  • Apparent weightlessness (11-16)

    Source - Practical physics/ Force and motion/Gravitational force and free fall

    The forcemeter reads zero during the fall. Gravity has not been switched off, however, and the mass is still subject to a downwards force. It still has weight, which is the unbalanced force resulting in its acceleration throughout its fall.

    View Resource

References

The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Gilbert, J. K.; Watts, D. M. and Osborne, R. J. () Students' Conceptions of Ideas in Mechanics. Physics Education, 17 (2),

    62-66.

    http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0031-9120/17/2/309/pdf

    Review sheet

  • Ogborn, J. () Understanding students' understandings: An example from dynamics. International Journal of Science Education, 7 (2),

    141-150.

    Review sheet

  • Bliss, J.; Ogborn, J. and Whitelock, D. () Secondary school pupils' commonsense theories of motion. International Journal of Science Education, 11 (3),

    263-272.

    This study aimed to expose and empirically test the 'commonsense theory of motion' developed by Jon Ogborn in a sample of 29 students aged 11-18 from two English comprehensive schools. Participants understanding of motion was tested by asking them to describe and explain a sequence of 'comics' depicting physical situations.
    Review sheet

  • Selman, R., Krupa, M., Stone, C. and Jacquette, D. () Concrete operational thought and the emergence of the concept of unseen force in children's theories of electromagnetism and gravity. Science Education 66 (2),

    181-194.

    Review sheet

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