Some students depict light around sources with short lines

Light, Sound and Waves


This may be because they understand that light is needed to illuminate objects but believe it stays near the illuminated object, or because they think it cannot travel very far from the source.

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

  • Light is travelling between source and effect (5-11)

    Ref -SPT HS01 TL01

    It is important to emphasis that the light travels from the source to the effect, even when it just seems to 'fill the room'.

    View Resource
  • Travelling between source and effect (11-14)

    Ref - SPT Li01 TL03

    There is a significant job for the teacher in working with those pupils who think of light only in terms of a source and effect. The question of where light comes from in the first place will need to be posed and ideas of light travelling from source to effect introduced.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

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


    Review sheet

  • Andersson, B. and Kärrqvist, C. () How Swedish pupils, aged 12‐15 years, understand light and its properties. European Journal of Science Education, 5 (4),


    DOI: 10.1080/0140528830050403.

    Review sheet

  • Osbourne, J.; Black, P.; Smith, M.; and Meadows, J. () Primary SPACE project - light, Liverpool University Press.

    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

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