Many pupils think that the force of gravity on an object will increase as it is moved higher, further away from the Earth’s surface.

Forces and Motion

Misconception RESEARCH REVIEW

Diagnostic Resources

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

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

Resources that Address This

  • Gravity gets stronger (11-16)

    Source - SPT/ Es01TL07

    This activity explores the 'right lines' idea that the force of gravity gets weaker the larger the distance between the objects.

    View Resource
  • Cosmic falling (5-11)

    Source - SPT/ Mf01TA06

    Here you can explore how the idea of down varies as you move from one planet to another, from one planetary system to another, from one star system to another, or from one galaxy to another. Down depends on the local gravity arrows.

    View Resource
  • Episode 401: Newton's law of universal gravitation (16-19)

    Source - TAP/ Fields/ gravitational fields

    This episode introduces Newton’s law of universal gravitation for point masses, and for spherical masses, and gets students practising calculations of the force between objects. The meaning of “inverse square law” is discussed.

    View Resource

References

The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Watts, D. M. and Zylbersztajn, A. () A survey of some children's ideas about force. Physics Education, 16 (6),

    360-365.

    This study investigated the conceptions of force of a sample of 125 students aged 14. Data was collected using a multiple-choice-with-explanation questionnaire.
    Review sheet

  • Osborne, R. () "Building on Children's Intuitive Ideas" in R. Osborne & P. Freyberg (Eds.), Learning in Science. Heinemann, Auckland.

    41-51.

    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

IOP DOMAINS Physics CPD programme

New videos on forces

Our first collection of videos gives teachers and coaches of physics a preview of the training we offer ahead of this term's live support sessions.

Find out more