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Everyday vs. Scientific Language
She was aware and concerned that some terms had dual meanings in science and in everyday life, as reported by
Solomon (1983). However, she was more than happy to accept pupils using multiple meanings and did not use the hard
line approach of ‘squashing’ their meanings for the accepted scientific ones. Areas discussed included the energy of
foods, efficiency, conservation, sustainable, dissipation in the sense of ‘lost’.

The ‘Big Picture’
She was concerned to give pupils the whole story and for them to see how individual concepts linked together to form
parts of the greater concept of energy. She also considered this ‘absolutely essential’ for the science teacher. This is
reminiscent of pushing into Vygotsky’s ZPD. To this end, each pupils had a learning wall of concepts for each topic in
science.
Position on the Energy Debate
As mentioned at the outset, She was the only teacher who participated in this research who was fully conscious of the
literature on energy over the past two decades and one of few who had adopted the contemporary position of energy
transfers rather than transformations. Under her conceptualisation of energy, the forms ‘kinetic’ and ‘potential’ (to
include gravitational, chemical and elastic) were allowed. It was appropriate to speak of objects as possessing these
types of energy. This is wholly in accord with Ellse (1988). However, forms would stop there and anything else to do
with the movement of energy was described as an energy transfer. Various agents could cause energy transfers and were
called energy transfer mechanisms: ‘heating, electric currents, forces/movement/work done, chemical reactions, nuclear
reactions’, as elicited on the spontaneous concept map for key stage three energy. The whole position was summarised
and radiated out from, ‘ENERGY can be STORED and ENERGY can be TRANSFERRED’, on this map, with distinct
examples of each. Quotations illustrating this position:
Energy is being transferred from the fire to the air in the room, em by radiation infrared radiation
and by, em convection currents …
Energy is being transferred by an electric current through the wire into the fan heater …
So the kettle you’ve got energy transferred into it by an electric current, and, internal energy of the
heating element increasing, transferring energy into the water around it.
… chemical energy in the gas being transferred by the chemical reaction of combustion, causing
energy to be transferred by heating, into the saucepan.

However, it was felt that the interplay between kinetic and gravitational potential energy was not adequately described
by energy transfers. She initially offered descriptions that bordered on mixing the ‘energy transfers’ and ‘energy
transformations’ approaches or ‘transferring between energy forms’. However, this may be a problem of the energy
transfers approach as appropriate at key stage three (will be revisited in T6 case study).
And then, when the, sucker, is released that elastic potential energy is, transferred as kinetic energy,
which transfers to gravitational potential energy as it goes up and then back to kinetic energy as it
comes down again.

When the problem was directly challenged, She could not really offer a solution concluding that there was a problem
with the language. Her best shot was to describe this interaction in a more neutral manner by speaking about differential
amounts of kinetic and potential energy at various positions on a slope / vertical line.

As mentioned, She was aware that many teachers prefer to teach energy through many forms and transformations
because it may be easier for young minds. She profoundly disagreed with this, claiming it was wrong to teach something
that was incorrect. Rather than present diagrams with forms of energy in boxes with arrows in between, she would put
objects or places in the boxes and the energy transfer mechanisms on the arrows. Through this approach and through
Sankey diagrams pupils would be encouraged to get to the position where they could shade on their learning wall: ‘I can
give examples of how energy makes things happen when it is transferred from one place or object to another’.

Given the inertia in some teachers accepting the contemporary position, her best shot at convincing the masses would be
to impose it from above. I.e. if schemes of work, text books, the National Curriculum, SATs and GCSE questions
required energy to be described properly by energy transfers then teachers would have to accept it. This is because She
was of the view that teachers would be concerned that their pupils did well. This ‘top down’ view was something that
She certainly had the power to carry out in her school as Head of Physics, in charge of the physics schemes of work and
assessment of physics topics.

Even though She was an adherent of the new way, the following anecdotes serve to illustrate that even the ‘converted’
may slip into former language. They are not intended as an exercise in ‘nit-picking’ but illustrate how tricky the
language is with respect to energy:
… chemical energy from the petrol, is being transferred as thermal energy in the engines, and then
as kinetic energy …
… a light bulb is designed to transfer energy in the form of physical light.
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