Common Student Difficulties - Physics

Reading the articles which describes the development of established assessments can be a great starting point to understanding common student difficulties!

J. Clement, Preconceptions in mechanics: Lessons Dealing with Students' Conceptual Difficulties

  • This is a book which contains concrete lessons one can use to teach topics on which students are known to have strong misconceptions.
  • The lessons are written by physics education researchers and, while they are designed primarily for high-school students, many of the lessons are adaptable to college instruction.
David Maloney (a physics education researcher) wrote an article in 2011 on the existing physics education literature on problem solving. This article also provides some insights into student difficulties in problem solving and how to address them.
  • This is an extensive bibliography of science education research (up to 2009) which, among others, documents the following major issues
    • Students’ conceptions of various kinds
    • Teachers’ conceptions of various kinds
    • Instruction taking conceptions into account
  • The bibliography includes keywords to facilitate search (for example, looking for students’ conceptions of a specific physics topic). Make sure you read the introduction before looking at the bibliography.
  • Article (somewhat old) reviewing the research in physics education written by two renowned physics education researchers
  • Among others, it provides references to empirical studies which investigate student difficulties with various topics and short descriptions of what can be found in those references
  • It also provides references to articles describing development and assessment of instructional strategies

In addition, see below for other articles which discuss student difficulties in physics:


Electricity, Circuits and Magnetism