Many students recall phrases like ‘heat rises’ and ‘hot things expand’ but cannot explain these or use them appropriately in explanations

Energy and Thermal Physics


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

  • Heat rises (11-14)

    Heat rising is a common concept that implies heat as a substance. When teaching convection, it's crucial to mention explicitly that warm air reduces in density and ascends through the colder air around it.

    View Resource
  • A model of vibrating atoms in a solid (11-16)
    1. The model is used as a prop to support a discussion of the way in which the particles in a solid are held together by spring-like forces.
    2. Show the model to the class and demonstrate how vibrating it will shake the individual atoms but they can retain their place in the overall pattern.
    View Resource


  • Schnittka, C. and Bell, R. () Engineering Design and Conceptual Change in Science: Addressing thermal energy and heat transfer in eighth grade. International Journal of Science Education, 33, (13), 1861-1887.

    Young secondary school students struggle with understanding energy changes and heating. They often misconceive "coldness" as a flow and attribute "hotness" or "coldness" to materials instead of temperature. A well-designed curriculum can help overcome these misconceptions and build a solid concept of temperature.

    Paper digest

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