Students can concentrate on object properties and behaviours overlooking the system and object interactions

Energy and Thermal Physics


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

  • Conduction, convection and radiation (11-16)

    This activity consolidates ideas about thermal transfer.

    View Resource


  • Chu, H., Treagust, D. F., Yeo, S. and Zadnik, M. () Evaluation of Students' Understanding of Thermal Concepts in Everyday Contexts, International Journal of Science Education, 34, (10), 1509-1534.

    This research finds a wide range of misconceptions about temperature and energy held by secondary school students, revealing that the students can have a very confused understanding of thermal physics and how energy is transferred by thermal processes such as conduction and radiation. To tackle these ideas students need to be taught clear links between energy transfer and heating, based on the initial idea of transfer of energy from ‘hot’ to ‘cold’ materials, and moving towards the idea of thermal equilibrium.

    Paper digest

  • Geourgiou, H. and Sharma, M.D. () University students understanding of Thermal Physics in everyday contexts, International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 10, 1119-1142.

    Taiwanese researchers performed a qualitative analysis of first-year undergraduate students’ thermal physics conceptions. It identifies a range of misconceptions, some of which persist despite higher levels of physics education (17-18 years).

    Paper digest

  • Thomas, P. L. and Schwenz, W. R. () College Physical Chemistry Students’ Conceptions of Equilibrium and Fundamental Thermodynamics, Journal of research in science teaching, 35 (10), 1151–1160.

    The study proposes supplementing lectures with active learning strategies to address thermodynamics and equilibrium misconceptions among 19-22-year-old students.

    Paper digest

  • Kesidou, S. and Duit, R. () Students' Conceptions of the Second Law of Thermodynamics- An Interpretive Study. Journal Of Research In Science Teaching, 30, (1), 85-106.

    Research shows that even the most able secondary school students are often unable to distinguish between the concepts of temperature and heat and their link to energy. The research shows that tackling the difference between heat and temperature is vital in understanding energy transfer by thermal processes, like conduction and convection. Using this approach, students can link to other energy transfers, stores, and energy conservation to build up a complete picture of energy.

    Paper digest

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