Students use the term ‘temperature’ less frequently than ‘heat’ when talking about thermal phenomena

Energy and Thermal Physics


By age 8-9, many students have developed an idea that temperature is related to levels or degrees of heat and are aware that a thermometer is used to measure temperature.

Resources to Address This

  • Warming things up (11-14)

    All of these three aspects of warming up are linked and all happen together.

    • The temperature of the warmed object rises.
    • The associated thermal store of energy fills a little.
    • More energy is shared amongst the particles in the object being warmed, and they move around more.
    View Resource


  • Thomaz, M. F. et al., () An attempt to overcome alternative conceptions related to heat and temperature. Physics Education, 30 (1) 19-26.

    Students can struggle to grasp the concepts of heat and temperature, often confusing the two together. This Portuguese paper discusses a teaching model focused on fostering conceptual change about heat and temperature in students aged 14-15.

    Paper digest

  • M. Louisa, F. C. S. Veiga, D. J. V. Costa Pereira and R. Maskill () Teachers' language and pupils' ideas in science lessons: Can teachers avoid reinforcing wrong ideas? International Journal of Science Education, 11 (4) 465-479.

    This research identifies some of the most common misconceptions about the relationship between energy, heating, and temperature. These easily categorised issues are found to be held by both students and their secondary school teachers. The paper provides some clear approaches to overcoming the ideas which limit successful learning, linking closely to the “energy stores” approach to describing energy and energy transfer pathways.

    Paper digest

  • Paik, S. H., Cho, B. K. and Go Y. M., () Korean 4- to 11-Year-Old Student Conceptions of Heat and Temperature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44 (2) 284–302, Published online in Wiley Interscience.

    This paper from South Korea presents the findings of a study on young students' conceptions of heat and temperature. Interviews with 4-11-year-olds revealed evolving understandings, showing instances where younger students outperformed in predicting changes. They suggest that increased mathematical education and the use of scientific terminology can help improve understanding.

    Paper digest

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