Brook, Angela, Hazel Briggs, Beverly Bell, and Rosalind Driver

Aspects of Secondary Students' Understanding of Heat: 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 heat. Information about student understanding was obtained by analysis of extended written responses to seven questions from 300 students. These questions asked for explanations of phenomena related to temperature and change of state, cooling by evaporation, and conduction of heat through materials. Most students had been exposed to scientific ideas about heat at some time in their science courses. The findings suggested that only a small proportion of students used accepted ideas about heat to explain the phenomena presented to them. Many students used incorrect ideas, such as "the sensation of hotness is due to heat transfer towards the body, the sensation of coldness to transfer of cold away from the body," "some substances are `naturally' colder than others," or "as heat is transferred to a substance its constituent particles expand, or melt."

A full account of the investigation is given in:

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

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