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New Book Examines Students' Understanding of Energy

In a new book on energy education,  Project 2061 senior research associate Cari Herrmann Abell and deputy director George DeBoer  have contributed a chapter describing efforts at AAAS to create assessments that educators can use to test students’ understanding of energy forms, transfer, transformation, and conservation and to diagnose their conceptual difficulties. The authors also report on what was learned when these assessments were administered to more than 20,000 students in grades 6 through 12 nationwide.

The Project 2061 authors, along with nearly 40 other scientists, science educators, science education researchers, and teachers, were invited to present their work at an international energy summit held at Michigan State University in December 2013. The new book Teaching and Learning of Energy in K-12 is a product of that summit and the first volume to consider energy as a concept that cuts across the science disciplines, an approach that is consistent with the recommendations in the Next Generation Science Standards. The new book brings together current thinking and findings about energy education: what students should know about energy, what can be learned from research on teaching and learning, what the major challenges are for teachers, and how to meet those challenges in the future. 

Presenting findings from research conducted through a grant from the National Science Foundation, Herrmann Abell and DeBoer point in their chapter to steady but modest improvement in students’ understanding of energy from middle to high school, but they also note that “even after years of instruction, many students have a very limited and unsophisticated understanding of the formal conventions for thinking and talking about energy.” Further, the authors found that many high school students hold the same misconceptions as students in middle school, making the need for high-quality, diagnostic assessments a top priority for energy education. 

Order a copy of the volume Teaching and Learning of Energy in K-12 Education from Springer.

Read an abstract of the chapter “Developing and Using Distractor-Driven Multiple-Choice Assessments Aligned to Ideas About Energy Forms, Transformation, Transfer, and Conservation” and order a copy of the chapter. 


Mary Koppal

Communications Director