Many students think that objects of different materials in the same room will have different temperatures

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

  • Establish that all objects in a closed environment (eg a room with no internal or external warming) will establish the same temperature. Some objects may feel cooler because they conduct the heat away from our hands. This is another example of why 'touch' is not a reliable measure of temperature.

  • Conduction, convection and radiation (11- 16)

    The section on conduction uses the idea of different materials feeling cooler in a room, as an introduction.

    View Resource


  • Thomaz, M. F., Malaquias, I. M., Valente, M. C. and Antunes, M. J. () An attempt to overcome alternative conceptions related to heat and temperature. Physics Education, 30, (1) 19-26.

    Students can struggle to grasp the concepts of heat and temperature, often confusing the two together. This Portuguese paper discusses a teaching model focused on fostering conceptual change about heat and temperature in students aged 14-15.

    Paper digest

  • Pathare, S., Huli, S., Nachane, M., Ladage, S. and Pradhan, H. () Understanding thermal equilibrium through activities. Physics Education, 50, (2) 146-158.

    This research paper reports the success of a module of five activities designed to develop undergraduate students’ understanding of thermal equilibrium. These activities were designed to be incremental and develop the use of a liquid flow analogy. The research was carried out by a university-based researcher in India.

    Paper digest

  • Harrison, A. G, Grayson, D. J., and Treagus, D. F. () Investigating a grade 11 student's evolving conceptions of heat and temperature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, (1) 55-87.

    This research identifies unclear concepts of heat and temperature in students aged 16-17 and shows how an eight-week course, using Ausubel's meaningful learning theory, clarified these ideas.

    Paper digest

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