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

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