Some students may associate magnetism with gravity (seeing one as the cause of the other), and/or think that both require the presence of air

Electricity and Magnetism


Students may believe that the reason we 'stick' to the surface of the Earth is due to some sort of magnetic attraction. 

Resources to Address This

  • Magnetism and Gravity (11-14)

    This resource discusses a helpful example that teachers can use to convince students that the forces of gravity and magnetism are different to one another. 

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  • Magnetism and Air (11-14)

    This resource discusses some useful ways for teachers to think about the teaching and learning issues surrounding this misconception and suggests a demonstration for challenging the belief that magnetic effects require the presence of air.

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  • Borges, A. T. and Gilbert, J. K. () Models of magnetism. International Journal of Science Education, 20 (3), 361-378.

    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

  • Bradamante, F. and Viennot, L. () Mapping Gravitational and Magnetic Fields with Children 9–11: Relevance, difficulties and prospects. International Journal of Science Education, 29 (3), 349-372.

    Students can become confused between gravitational and magnetic fields, often thinking that they are the same thing. To overcome this issue the students need to explore the different shapes of magnetic fields, identify that they can cause repulsion due to the presence of two magnetic poles and then discuss the role of field lines in both types of field.

    Paper digest

  • Hickey, R. and Schibeci, R. A. () The attraction of magnetism. Physics Education, 34 (6), 383.

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