Some students see the more obvious ‘heat’ of very hot objects as different from that of objects at lower temperatures

Energy and Thermal Physics


For example, the Sun or a flame compared with the human body or a cup of tea. 

Resources to Address This

  • Temperature and particles related to energy (11-14)

    This resource explores the difference between temperature and thermal energy:

    • Temperature is termed an intensive quality since it does not depend upon the number of particles (or mass of substance) present.
    • Thermal energy is an extensive quantity since it depends upon the number of particles (or mass of substance) present.
    View Resource
  • Helpful language for energy talk (11-16)

    There are a limited number of energy stores - thermal (in a warm object) being one.

    One energy carrier or pathway is by heating (because of a temperature difference).

    An object thought of as a 'hot' object simply has a larger store of thermal energy and can transfer more by the action of heating.

    View Resource


  • Harrison, A. G, Grayson, D. J. and Treagus, D. F. () Investigating a grade 11 student's evolving conceptions of heat and temperature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, (1) 55-87.

    This research identifies unclear concepts of heat and temperature in students aged 16-17 and shows how an eight-week course, using Ausubel's meaningful learning theory, clarified these ideas.

    Paper digest

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