Some student believe light bounces off things, but this has no relevance to seeing

Light, Sound and Waves


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

  • A sequence to develop ideas about seeing (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS01 TA02

    Seeing is a very significant sense to humans, and some images evoke strong emotional responses. The physicality of the light is really important, both of making connections to the underpinning waves and for establishing a context for the learning and the emotional hooks.

    View Resource
  • You can't see your face in the newspaper - but the writing is clear (11-14)

    Ref - SPT Li03 PN09

    At first sight, it may seem a little odd that although you can't see your face in the newspaper, as you can see the surface of the newspaper perfectly clearly and are able to pick out and read all of the print.  This is explained by the idea of diffuse reflection. 

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Fetherstonhaugh, T. and Treagust, D. F. () Students’ Understanding of Light and Its Properties: Teaching to Engender Conceptual Change. Science Education, 76 (6),


    Review sheet

  • Eaton, J., Anderson, C.W. and Smith, E.L. () Students' misconceptions interfere with learning: case studies of fifth-grade students. Research Series 128, The Institute for Research on Teaching, Michigan State University.

    Review sheet

  • Ramadas, J. and Driver, R. () Aspects of secondary students' ideas about light, University of Leeds Centre for Studies in Science & Mathematics Education.

    Review sheet

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