Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism | Energy and Thermal Physics

Particular issues arising and decisions to be made when teaching Electricity and Energy

Teaching Guidance for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

Getting the physics straight

  • electrical flow starts simultaneously everywhere in the loop
  • adding resistance in series or parallel has different effects
  • energy and power used as a limiting model
  • remote working - electrical and mechanical
  • energy filling stores as a result of the accumulation of power in pathways
  • devices switch power from one pathway to other pathways

Representing the topic effectively

  • current in electrical loops as a result of choices in assembling the circuit
  • energy is found in stores; power in pathways
  • using a few coherent models well
  • magnetic fields as representations to reason with - to predict forces
  • electrical loops

Particular teaching challenges

  • correct use of technical terms
  • reasoning with students, rather than relying on rules of thumb 
  • avoiding 'electrical energy' in dynamic situations such as resistive circuits
  • a coherent model of power and energy
  • reinforcing correct and helpful ways of thinking about electrical circuit 
  • using a consistent and coherent energy-based description of processes
  • using a consistent and coherent power-based description of processes

Dealing with existing ideas

  • sequential reasoning about energy in circuits
  • sequential reasoning about current and voltage in circuits
  • using a consistent and coherent energy-based description of processes
  • the meaning of ratings on everyday devices
  • energy chains in reasoning
  • conflating electrical and magnetic loops in electromagnetic devices 

Selected teaching principles

  • systematic use of teaching models 
  • analysing circuits as systems 
  • circuits are intelligible; you can reason about them from simple principles
  • reasoning about dynamic equilibrium
  • electromagnetic induction linked to other processes 
  • respecting the quantitative nature of energy
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