Many students think that electric current or electric charge (or 'electricity'), rather than energy, is stored in a battery

Electricity and Magnetism


Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York EPSE website.

Resources to Address This

  • Distinguishing Between Current and Energy (11-14)

    This resource discusses how to helpfully distinguish between two different concepts in electric circuits: the movement of electric charge (current) and the depletion of energy from the battery.

    View Resource
  • Series and branching circuits (11-19)

    Experiments show that current (and therefore charge) is conserved around a circuit. They can be teacher demonstrations or student revision experiments

    View Resource
  • Episode 105: Sources of electrical energy (11-19)

    Two fun demonstrations show that there is nothing special about the chemical substances that are needed to make a battery. Then an exploration of the energy stored in a battery.

    View Resource


  • Küçüközer, H. and Kocakülah, S. () Secondary School Students' Misconceptions about Simple Electric Circuits. Journal of Turkish Science Education.

    Bulbs are often used in the teaching of series and parallel circuits, but using these does not always help students in understanding the concept of conservation of current and the relationship between voltage, current and energy transfer. This paper discusses some of the students’ misconceptions that need to be addressed and suggests using meters more often to analyse circuit behaviour.

    Paper digest

  • Dupin, J. J. and Johsua, S. () Conceptions of French pupils concerning electric circuits: Structure and evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24 (9), 791-806.

    Overcoming student misconceptions about currents and voltages can be difficult, and students can retain inaccurate ideas in the links between these are not discussed fully. This paper shows how some of the misconceptions can be tackled successfully while outlining those that are more difficult to resolve.

    Paper digest

  • Arnold, M. and Millar, R. () Being constructive: An alternative approach to the teaching of introductory ideas in electricity. International Journal of Science Education, 9 (5), 553-563.

    Paper digest

  • Borges, A. T. and Gilbert, J. K. () Mental models of electricity. International Journal of Science Education, 21 (1), 95-117.

    A study including electrical engineers shows that a fully correct understanding of electrical principles is not always necessary to work in the field. This paper describes how students and professionals picture electric currents and discusses how to develop models and teaching techniques that will allow students to link electrical concepts correctly.

    Paper digest

  • Lee, Y. and Law, N. () Explorations in promoting conceptual change in electrical concepts via ontological category shift. International Journal of Science Education, 23 (2), 111-149.

    These four connected studies involving observations of practical work reveal that students are unclear in their pictures of current, voltages and the behaviour of batteries in circuits. It shows that precise language and allowing students to predict and experiment can encourage them to make more accurate qualitative explanations about what is happening in simple circuits.

    Paper digest

  • Chiu, M-H. and Lin, J-W., () Promoting Fourth Graders’ Conceptual Change of Their Understanding of Electric Current via Multiple Analogies, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42 (4) 429-464.

    This paper demonstrates that analogies have a significant impact on learning when used to teach about electric current in circuits. It provides a rare statistical comparison of the effect of using different analogies, including delivery models and water flow in pipes, to promote understanding for different groups of students and discusses how analogies can be used to confront student misconceptions directly.

    Paper digest

  • Heller, P. M. and Finley, F. N. () Variable Uses of Alternative Conceptions: A Case Study in Current Electricity. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 29 (3), 259-275.

  • Koumaras, P., Kariotoglou, P. and Psillos, D. () Causal structures and counter‐intuitive experiments in electricity. International Journal of Science Education, 19 (6), 617-630.

  • Selman, R. L., Krupa, M. P., Stone, C. R. and Jaquette, D. S. () 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.

  • Summers, M., Kruger, C. and Mant, J. () Teaching electricity effectively in the primary school: a case study. International Journal of Science Education, 20 (2), 153-172.

  • Leone, M. () History of Physics as a Tool to Detect the Conceptual Difficulties Experienced by Students: The Case of Simple Electric Circuits in Primary Education. Science Education, 23 (4), 923-953.

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