Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism

Particular issues arising and decisions to be made when teaching Electric Circuits

Teaching Guidance for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

Getting the physics straight

  • current is charge flow - and charge can be positive or negative
  • circuits must be dealt with as systems
  • remote working in electrical loops

Representing the topic effectively

  • analysis in terms of loops
  • a focus on remote working
  • consistent and helpful conventions for drawing circuits and the elements
  • the rope loop teaching model

Particular teaching challenges

  • it happens inside the wires
  • unhelpful models that lead children off down the wrong tracks
  • there is a significant gap between pupils' physical experience and formal models
  • developing a model that children can reason with (confidently)
  • trying to jump to shortcut solutions
  • many interlocking quantities
  • a lack of belief that circuits are intelligible 
  • a conclusion of ill-rooted terms

Dealing with existing ideas

  • sequential reasoning about energy in circuits
  • the battery is a source of charge
  • current runs out
  • the battery is a constant-current source
  • current measures the speed of the charges
  • sequential reasoning about current and voltage in circuits

Selected teaching principles

  • systematic use of a teaching model
  • avoidance of ad-hoc rules
  • analysing circuits as systems
  • circuits are intelligible; you can reason about them from simple principles
  • explicit development of a model
  • establishing reasoned drawing conventions
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