Trumper (1998)

In this paper, Israeli researchers reported the outcomes of a longitudinal study identifying changes in student teachers’ energy conceptions. They investigated how student teachers’ ideas developed over four years during their undergraduate physics and education course. 


  • Educators must stimulate student teachers to use group work or class discussion, if appropriate, to create learning opportunities for students.

Learners’ ideas

  • Many teachers saw energy as a quasi-material entity rather than an abstract idea.
  • Most teachers do not accept the idea of energy degradation.
  • More than 70% of the teachers showed struggles in differentiating between force and energy.
  • Some view energy as being related to living and moving things (anthropocentric)
  • About 70% of the teachers had a vitalistic view of energy, the premise that living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living objects because they contain some unexplained energy.
  • Before learning about energy students relate energy to an obvious activity - energy makes things work.
  • Teachers typically believe that energy changes from one form to another – likely because this is still explicitly taught in many curricula worldwide.
  • Some use a depository model for energy: some objects have energy and expend it. A substantial number of teachers' responses contradicted the principle of conservation of energy.
  • Teachers can consider energy as an ‘ingredient’ or ‘produce’ of change.
  • For some teachers, energy is seen as a type of fluid transferred in certain processes.

Study Structure


This study addresses three research questions:

  1. How does physics student teachers' understanding of energy develop during their pre-service high school teacher university program?
  2. How do their physics and didactics courses influence their energy conceptions?
  3. Do university physics students in pre-service training to be high-school teachers finally hold correct scientific views that will eventually allow them to plan and implement instructional strategies that, in turn, will lead their future high school students to achieve a scientific concept of energy?

Evidence collection

The energy conceptions of the pre-service teachers were analysed using a two-part written questionnaire that was presented to the same group on their first day of class for four years running.

In the first part of the questionnaire, students were asked to describe eight pictures involving the energy concept, in one or two sentences using the word energy. Responses to the first part of the questionnaire were analysed according to the alternative conceptual frameworks used by students in the description of the pictures.

The second part of the questionnaire comprised 42 statements together with drawings of different situations. Students were asked to respond to each statement with one of the following responses: "true," "false," "don't understand" or "not sure." 

The chi-square coefficient among alternative frameworks during the years was calculated and major differences among years and students' alternative frameworks were identified.

Details of the sample

The samples consisted of 25 pre-service high school teachers (aged 18-22) over four years. Over 90% had studied for an undergraduate degree in physics with a high school training certificate.

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