Some students think that light stays on a mirror during reflection

Light, Sound and Waves


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

  • Reflection of light (5-11)

    Ref- SPT HS01 PN06

    Light beams are reflected from surfaces according to the law of reflection, which states that 'the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection'.  Build up the diagram in stages.

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  • The virtual image in a plane mirror (11-16)

    Ref - Practical Physics; Light and optics; Reflection of light; 

    Identifying that the image in a plane mirror is virtual.  Trace the rays from the source to the mirror and the reflection.  Locate the virtual image (where the light seems to come from).  The light does not stay 'on the mirror'.

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The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Watts, D. M. () Student Conceptions of Light: A case study. Physics Education, 20, IOPScience,


    Review sheet

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

    Review sheet

IOP DOMAINS Physics CPD programme

Waves CPD videos

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