Many students see falling as ‘natural’ and not requiring an explanation

Forces and Motion


Diagnostic Resources

Resource to Address This

  • Falling all over the world (5-11)

    Children often have a very local understanding of the word "down". In this resource, we invite them to consider what down might mean for children in different places on this planet.

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  • How things fall (5-11)

    This is a focussing activity, that shows the wide variety of things that fall in the children's everyday environment and begins to develop a range of descriptions for these falls.

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  • Apparent weightlessness (11-16)

    The forcemeter reads zero during the fall. Gravity has not been switched off, however, and the mass is still subject to a downward force. It still has weight, which is the unbalanced force resulting in its acceleration throughout its fall.

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  • Bliss, J., Ogborn, J. and Whitelock, D. () Secondary school pupils' commonsense theories of motion. International Journal of Science Education, 11 (3), 263-272.

    Asking students to analyse images from comic strips, rather than the more common force diagrams used in lessons, can be useful in establishing students understanding of forces. The approach also helps to identify misconceptions, based on students ‘common sense’ when they give their descriptions. These ideas are often resilient to change and need to be explicitly challenged in teaching and learning activities.

    Paper digest

  • Gilbert, J. K., Watts, D. M. and Osborne, R. J. () Students' Conceptions of Ideas in Mechanics. Physics Education, 17 (2), 62-66.

  • Ogborn, J. () Understanding students' understandings: An example from dynamics. International Journal of Science Education, 7 (2), 141-150.

  • Selman, R., Krupa, M., Stone, C. and Jacquette, D. () Concrete operational thought and the emergence of the concept of unseen force in children's theories of electromagnetism and gravity. Science Education 66 (2), 181-194.

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