Many students think of temperature as a property of a material (some substances are ‘naturally’ warmer or colder than others)

Energy and Thermal Physics


Resources to Address This

  • Temperature and particles related to energy  (11-14)

    What is the relationship between the amount of energy in the thermal store of a warm object and the temperature of that object? In rather dated and unhelpful terms we might ask, what is the relationship between the heat energy in an object and its temperature?

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  • 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) 1861-1887.

    Early secondary school students struggle to describe energy changes, especially heating. They often describe flows of ‘coldness’ or assign ‘hotness’ or ‘coldness’ as properties of materials rather than being related to the temperature of materials. This research shows that a carefully designed curriculum, based on challenging misconceptions directly and building a clear concept of temperature, will help to overcome them.

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  • Lubben, F., Netshisaulu, T. and Campbell, B. () Students' use of cultural metaphors and their scientific understandings related to heating. Science Education, 83, (6) 761-774.

    In this study, South African researchers explored 147 students’ use of cultural metaphoric reasoning in classifying everyday situations as hot or cold, as is part of Sotho cultural tradition, and how this develops misconceptions of heating.

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  • Burgoon, J. N., Heddle, M. L. and Duran, E. () Re-Examining the Similarities between Teacher and Student Conceptions about Physical Science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22 (2) 101-114.

    Elementary school teachers may hold misconceptions regarding gravity, magnetism, gases, and temperature, often similar to student misconceptions. The US-based authors of this study suggest focusing on research-based science misconceptions during professional development for a more complete and accurate understanding of science content.

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  • Chu, H., Treagust, D. F., Yeo, S. and Zadnik, M. () Evaluation of Students' Understanding of Thermal Concepts in Everyday Contexts. International Journal of Science Education, 34, (10) 1509-1534.

    This research finds a wide range of misconceptions about temperature and energy held by secondary school students, revealing that the students can have a very confused understanding of thermal physics and how energy is transferred by thermal processes such as conduction and radiation. To tackle these ideas students need to be taught clear links between energy transfer and heating, based on the initial idea of transfer of energy from ‘hot’ to ‘cold’ materials, and moving towards the idea of thermal equilibrium.

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  • Komáromi, A. () Space mishap as a stimulus context for thermal conduction exploration in secondary school. Journal of Physics: Conference Series.

    This study, conducted as part of a Hungarian PhD research, explored a 'flipped classroom' approach to enhance thermal concept understanding among 14-16-year-olds, using space-related activities. Initially, students often misconceived temperature differences as properties of materials. However, implementing space-based, practice-focused teaching significantly improved students' understanding of heat and heat transfer.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Paik, S.H., Cho, B.K. and Go Y.M. () Korean 4- to 11-Year-Old Student Conceptions of Heat and Temperature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, (2) 284–302.

    This paper from South Korea presents the findings of a study on young students' conceptions of heat and temperature. Interviews with 4-11-year-olds revealed evolving understandings, showing instances where younger students outperformed in predicting changes. They suggest that increased mathematical education and the use of scientific terminology can help improve understanding.

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  • 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

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