Many students have vague ideas about what light is as they have not been given accurate, age-appropriate definitions, or have been given conflicting definitions.
Specifically, some students believe that the word ‘light’ refers to a source (e.g. a light bulb), some students believe that the word ‘light’ refers to an effect (e.g. a patch of light) and some students believe that the word ‘light’ refers to state (e.g. brightness).
If a student is asked to think about what light is a wide variety in their responses may be observed. This indicates that there is no single, homogeneous context for children's thinking about light.
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
Selecting and developing activities for seeing things (5-11)
Ref - SPT HS01 TA01
A collection of ideas to think about when teaching this topic, and issues to avoid.
Do not assume the students have a correct understanding about light - explore the correctness of what they do think.View Resource
Things you'll need to decide on as you plan: Seeing with Light (11-14)
Ref - SPT Li01 TL01
This resource identifies the issues for the learners and the key 'physics' ideas that need to be established to sure understanding.View Resource
Thinking about actions to take: Radiating from Source to Absorber (11-16)
Ref SPT Ra01 TL13
This extends the list of issues to include radiating and absorbing.View Resource
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- Haagen-Schützenhöfer, C () Students’ conceptions on white light and implications for teaching and learning about colour. Physics Education, 52,
- Andersson, B and Kärrqvist, C. () How Swedish pupils, aged 12‐15 years, understand light and its properties. European Journal of Science Education, 5 (4),
- Osbourne, J.; Black, P.; Smith, M.; and Meadows, J. () Primary SPACE project - light, Liverpool University Press.
- Ramadas, J and Driver, R. () Aspects of secondary students' ideas about light, University of Leeds Centre for Studies in Science & Mathematics Education.
- Tekos, G. and Solomonidou, C. () Constructivist Learning and Teaching of Optics Concepts Using ICT tools in Greek Primary School: A Pilot Study. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 18 (5),