Some students explain the phases of the Moon being caused by the Sun casting a shadow on the Moon

Earth and Space

Misconception RESEARCH REVIEW

Diagnostic Resources

Resources to address this

  • Why does the Moon change?  (11-14)

    Ref - SPT ES04 TL06

    This resource covers wrong track explanations for the Moon phases.  It does not directly cover the Sun casting a shadow, but the same approach could be used.

    View Resource
  • The moon - our nearest neighbour (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS03 PN05

    The reason for the shape of the Moon changing periodically, going through its different phases is tricky and widely misunderstood. This is not caused by the Moon being in the shadow of the Earth. It is caused by where the Moon is in relation to the Sun and the Earth and so how you see the Sunlight reflecting off the Moon. It really is best not to try to explain this to primary children. There is more on the phases of the moon in the SPT: Earth in space topic.

    View Resource

The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Baxter, J., () Children's understanding of familiar astronomical events, International Journal of Science Education, 11 (5)

    502-513,

    https://doi.org/10.1080/0950069890110503.

    Review sheet

  • Galano, S., Colantonio, A., Leccia, S., Marzoli, I., Puddu, E. and Testa, I., () Developing the use of visual representations to explain basic astronomy phenomena, Physical review physics education research, 14, (1):010145.

    Review sheet

  • Sharp, J. G., () Children's astronomical beliefs: a preliminary study of Year 6 children in south‐west England, International Journal of Science Education, 18 (6)

    685-712.

    Review sheet

  • Trumper, R., () A cross-age study of junior high school students conceptions of basic astronomy concepts, International Journal of Science Education, 23 (11)

    1111- 1123.

    Review sheet

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