Some students have differing ideas about what is happening in the wires of an electric circuit when it is working
Misconception
Some interpret electric effects as due to a meeting (or ‘clash’) of currents from the positive and negative battery terminals. Many think that ‘electricity’ (or ‘electric current’) is partly used up (attenuated) by any component (bulb, buzzer, motor, etc.) that it passes through. This view is very resistant to change.
Diagnostic Resources
The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.
For more information, see the University of York EPSE website.
These questions probe pupils' ideas about what is actually happening (unseen) inside the wires of a circuit.
EPSE Electric Current Q25Resources to Address This

Episode 102: Current as a Flow of Charge
This resource provides an overview, aimed at older students, of the properties of electric current and its relation to charge.
View Resource 
What is Really Flowing and Does it Flow? (1114)
This resource looks at what's going on inside the metallic wires of an electric circuit.
View Resource 
Episode 102: Current as a flow of charge. (1619)
These activities help to illustrate the idea of electric charge and its relationship to a flow of current.
View Resource
References
 Küçüközer, H. and Kocakülah, S. () Effect of Simple Electric Circuits Teaching on Conceptual Change in Grade 9 Physics Course. Journal of Turkish Science Education.
When studying electricity, the most difficult concept for secondary students to understand is that of potential difference or voltage. Students cannot clearly separate it from current or energy and the simple circuits used do not always help. This paper shows that teachers need to describe and model currents and voltages more clearly, using meters to measure instead of relying on concepts such as ‘brightness’.
Paper digest  Küçüközer, H. and Kocakülah, S. () Secondary School Students' Misconceptions about Simple Electric Circuits. Journal of Turkish Science Education.
Bulbs are often used in the teaching of series and parallel circuits, but using these does not always help students understand current conservation, and the relationship between voltage, current and energy transfer. This paper discusses some of the students’ misconceptions that need to be addressed and suggests using meters more often to analyse circuit behaviour.
Paper digest  Dupin, J. J. and Johsua, S. () Conceptions of French pupils concerning electric circuits: Structure and evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24 (9), 791806.
Overcoming student misconceptions about currents and voltages can be difficult, and students can retain inaccurate ideas if the links between these are not discussed fully. This paper shows how some of the misconceptions can be tackled successfully while outlining those that are more difficult to resolve.
Paper digest  Arnold, M. and Millar, R. () Being constructive: An alternative approach to the teaching of introductory ideas in electricity. International Journal of Science Education, 9 (5), 553563.
Identifying the misconceptions your students hold is critical to planning teaching activities that can overcome them. This research demonstrates how some common misconceptions, including the idea of current being ‘used up’ as it passed through components or bulbs powered by ‘clashing currents’ can be addressed successfully.
Paper digest  Borges, A. and Gilbert, J. () Mental models of electricity. International Journal of Science Education, 21 (1), 95117.
A study including electrical engineers shows that a fully correct understanding of electrical principles is not always necessary to work in the field. This paper describes how students and professionals picture electric currents and discusses how to develop models and teaching techniques that will allow students to link electrical concepts correctly.
Paper digest  Lee, Y. and Law, N. () Explorations in promoting conceptual change in electrical concepts via ontological category shift. International Journal of Science Education, 23 (2), 111149.
These four connected studies involving observations of practical work reveal that students are unclear in their pictures of current, voltages and the behaviour of batteries in circuits. It shows that precise language and allowing students to predict and experiment can encourage them to make more accurate qualitative explanations about what is happening in simple circuits.
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