Many pupils strongly link energy with movement and/or force

Energy and Thermal Physics


Consequently, many students use words like energy, power and force in an undifferentiated manner; use phrases similar to "no movement" or "everything is inert" when describing why a system does not involve energy and/or struggle to distinguish between energy and work leading to statements like "energy is a force, a force is the ability to do work."


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.

Resources to Address This

  • Two complementary descriptions (11-14)

    Ref - SPT En02 PN04

    It is important to recognise from the very outset that this description of the action of fuels, in terms of energy and energy stores, is theoretical or abstract in nature. It doesn't belong to discussion in the everyday, or lived-in world. ... We think it is helpful to make a clear distinction between the everyday description and the energy description.

    View Resource
  • Getting to know the joule and the watt (11-16)

    Ref - Practical physics; Energy; Making energy real: using the SEP Energymeter; Getting to know the joule and the watt.

    Students use a hand-turned generator to gain direct experience of measuring energy transfer and to get a ‘feel’ for the size of a joule and the size of a watt.

    View Resource


  • Lee, C. K. () A Conceptual Change Model for Teaching Heat Energy, Heat Transfer and Insulation. Science Education International, 25, (4)


    Review sheet

  • Papadouris, N., Constantinou, C., and Kyratsi, K. () Students' Use of the Energy Model to Account for Changes in Physical Sytems, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45 (4)


    Review sheet

  • 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,


    Review sheet

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


    Review sheet

  • Trumper, R. () A Longitudinal Study of Physics Students' Conceptions on Energy in Pre-Service Training for High School Teachers Journal of Science Education and Technology, 7, (4)


    Review sheet

  • Loverude, M. E. () Student Understanding Of Gravitational Potential Energy And The Motion Of Bodies In A Gravitational Field, AIP Conference Proceedings, 77, 790, California State University Fullerton, American Institute of Physics.

    Review sheet

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