Brook, Angela and Rosalind Driver

Aspects of Secondary Students' Understanding of Energy: Summary Report

University of Leeds
Price: 1.50

Grade focus: 6-8, 9-12

This summary report is one of a series developed by the CLIS Project (Children's Learning in Science Project) in the UK. The series documents the main findings of the project's research on high school student understanding of important ideas in science and their implications for teaching and curriculum development.

This report summarizes the findings of a study of 15-year-old students' understanding of the concept of energy. Information about student understanding was obtained by analysis of extended written responses by 300 students to questions that required the application of the principle of energy conservation and the idea that the amount of useful energy decreases during transfers and transformations. Most students had been exposed to scientific ideas about energy at some time in their science courses. Main findings include: Few students tended to use the idea of energy conservation to explain and interpret phenomena; some student notions about energy were not part of an accepted science view of energy; and some students experienced difficulty in interpreting quantitatively situations where energy changes take place.

A full account of the investigation is given in:

Brook, A. and Driver, R. (1984). Aspects of secondary student understanding of energy: Full report. Leeds, UK: University of Leeds, Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education.

Also available from the project are:

a) "The Construction of Meaning and Conceptual Change in Classroom Settings: Case Studies on Energy," which documents classroom teaching and learning about energy to inform the development of revised teaching practices.

b) "Approaches to Teaching Energy", a description of two approaches to teaching energy based on the constructivist theory of learning, guided by the project's research on student understanding, and written by teams of teachers. The first approach, "Energy and Ourselves" is intended for 10- to 12-year-old students; the second, " Energy for the Consumer," is intended for 13- to 15-year-old students. The set contains detailed lesson plans and student worksheets.

Other topics investigated in the series of summary reports include Heat, Particles, and Plant Nutrition.