Ski lifts, bowling balls, pipe system or waterfall? Lower secondary students’ understanding of analogies for electric circuits.
Electric circuits are challenging for students to understand, and a wide range of analogies are developed in order to support their learning. This article investigates how lower secondary students understand four analogies presented in teaching material for science for Norwegian schools. The analogies compare electric circuits to a ski lift, a water pipe system, a waterfall and moving bowling balls, respectively. Data in the study consist of group interviews with 12 students in lower secondary school, about how they understand the analogies. Results show that students are able to reason about continuity and the concept of current in circuits based on all the analogies, but that the concept of voltage remains a challenge. It seems from the results that analogies relating voltage to energy transfer as an effect of height difference in a gravitational field are constructive, despite the need for the more abstract concept of field. In addition, the results demonstrate that weaknesses in how the analogies are presented may cause major problems for students in building a fruitful understanding. This kind of weaknesses are prevalent in the teaching material studied.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).