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)

    Ref - SPT; En05 TL05

    The idea of heat rising is very common in everyday speech and adds to the notion of heat being some kind of substance. In teaching about convection, it is therefore important to refer explicitly to the air being warmed up, reducing in density and rising through the colder surrounding air.

    View Resource
  • A model of vibrating atoms in a solid (11-16)

    Ref - Practical Physics; Molecules; Thermal expansion; A model of vibrating atoms in a solid

    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 that 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)


    Review sheet

Limit Less Campaign

Support our manifesto for change

The IOP wants to support young people to fulfil their potential by doing physics. Please sign the manifesto today so that we can show our politicians there is widespread support for improving equity and inclusion across the education sector.

Sign today