Many students cannot correctly identify the forces acting on an object that has been set in motion but is slowing down

Forces and Motion


Resources to Address This

  • Parachute games (11-14)

    Source - SPT/ Mo02TA05

    This resource outlines an activity where an object does not continue to fall faster and faster but reaches a final constant speed (or terminal speed), and the discussions you might have with your class.

    View Resource
  • Running out of driving force (11-14)

    Source - SPT/ Mo03TL04

    The driving force is only acting when there is contact - friction or drag are the forces affecting the motion once there is no driving force.

    View Resource
  • Episode 208: Preparation for drag forces (16-19)

    Source - TAP/ Mechanics/ Drag forces

    Consolidating understanding of forces acting on a falling object.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • White, B. Y. () Sources of Difficulty in Understanding Newtonian Dynamics. Cognitive Science, 7 (1),


    This study examined the responses of 40 high school science students (mean age 16.4) from an upper-middle class suburb of the Boston metropolitan area to a series of questions on Newtonian dynamics. Solutions and any comments made during the questions were recorded, as well as interviews and diagrams drawn.
    Review sheet

  • Clement, J. () Students' preconceptions in introductory mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 50 (1),


    Review sheet

  • Hewson, P. W. () Epistemological commitments in the learning of science: Examples from dynamics. The European Journal of Science Education, 7 (2),


    This study took place at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. It aimed to explore the role played by the epistemological commitments which a student holds in determining whether he or she accepts or rejects an argument.
    Review sheet

2023 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Awards

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more