Brook, Angela and Rosalind Driver in collaboration with Dudley Hind

Progression in Science: The Development of Pupils' Understanding of Physical Characteristics of Air, Across the Age Range 5-16 Years

University of Leeds
Price: 7.00

Grade focus: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

This report summarizes the findings of a study of 5-, 8-, 12-, and 16-year-old British students' understanding of air and its properties. Information about student understanding was obtained by analysis of student interviews on tasks related to the following properties of air: air is all around us, air spreads out to fill available space, air has weight, air can be compressed and expanded, air around us exerts a pressure, air pressure acts equally in all directions, and pressure differences tend to equalize. Main findings included: The majority of 8-year-olds recognized that air exists even when it is not moving and that it takes up space; most 12-year-olds and half of 16-year-olds thought that air has "negative weight" or no weight. The report includes a short review of previous research on student ideas about air, a description of the study's findings, and implications of the study's findings for teaching and curriculum development.