Many students see friction as a phenomenon, rather than as a force

Forces and Motion


Diagnostic Resources

  • Friction between solid surfaces (11-16)

    Source - Practical physics/ Force and motion/ Friction, turning and other effects

    This resource explores the factors that affect the force of friction.

    View Resource
  • Visualising what happens at surfaces for grip and slip (5-11)

    Source - SPT/ Mf03TA07

    This activity is designed to help children describe friction by:

    • recognising that sliding rough surfaces past each other has a warming effect
    • recognising that grip forces vary as the surfaces vary
    View Resource
  • Friction (11-14)

    Source - SPT/ Fo02PN08

    When two surfaces are in contact there is a force acting on each surface that acts in a direction to stop them moving past one another.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Clement, J. () Using Bridging Analogies and Anchoring Intuitions to Deal with Students' Preconceptions in Physics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30 (10),


    (This study aimed to measure the effect of using 'bridging' analogies (analogies with intermediate examples) to address the preconceptions of high school physics students. The sample consisted of 3 experimental groups across 2 schools (comprising 150 students) and 2 control groups across 2 schools (comprising 55 students). Data was collected using pre- and post-intervention tests, and was analysed using a t-test.
    Review sheet

  • Clement, J. () "Students' alternative conceptions in mechanics: a coherent system of preconceptions?" in H. Helm, and J. D. Novak (Eds), Proceedings of the International Seminar: Misconceptions in Science and Mathematics. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


    Review sheet

  • Clement, J. () Students' preconceptions in introductory mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 50 (1),


    Review sheet

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