Many students are unable to explain maintained thermal equilibrium in terms of a balance between heat input and loss

Energy and Thermal Physics


Many students are unable to explain maintained thermal equilibrium (an object being kept at a fixed temperature higher than its surroundings) in terms of a balance between heat (or energy) input and loss – but use instead of simple cause-effect reasoning focusing on the strength of the heater.

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

  • Hot houses (11-14)

    Ref - SPT En05 TA05

    This activity looks at the energy losses in a model house and provides an environment where several explorations are possible. Sensible actions rely on reasoning based in convection, conduction and radiation in trying to achieve a chosen goal for the house. 

    It is also possible to introduce the idea of thermal equilibrium.

    View Resource


  • Wiser, M. () Use of History of Science to Understand and Remedy Students' Misconceptions About Heat and Temperature, in David N. Perkins, Judah L. Schwartz, Mary Maxwell West, and Martha Stone Wiske (Eds), Software Goes to School: Teaching for Understanding with New Technologies. Oxford University Press, New York.

    Review sheet

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