Some students believe light has different modes or kinds and sometimes even that these different 'kinds' of light in different circumstances can behave differently.

Light, Sound and Waves


For example, some students do not consider light rays to be the same as 'ordinary light’; similarly they may distinguish light from a given source from 'daylight'. As a result students give differing explanations for how objects are visible in daylight to how they are visible under a lamp. Another example might be 'natural' or 'electric' light.

Resources to Address This

  • Noticing lights (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS01 Ta03

    To bring to children's attention the range and variety of lights that can be seen in different places in their local environment.  Emphasis the ways they all behave the same.

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  • Survey: lighting at home  (11-14)

    Ref - SPT Li03 Ta03

    This activity helps to make the link between studies of light at school and lighting in the home. It will provides lots of points of discussion relating to the pros and cons of different kinds of bulbs.

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  • Wenham, E. J and Guesne, E. () The Place of Optics in Physics Teaching - Children's Ideas about Light. New Trends in Physics Teaching, IV, Paris, UNESCO publication,


    Review sheet

  • Watts, D. M. () Student Conceptions of Light: A case study. Physics Education, 20, IOPScience,


    Review sheet

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