Students’ Misconceptions as to Qualities of Light

Students often have many misconceptions regarding their abilities to perceive light, as well as regarding specific qualities of light and objects that can reflect it. First, the problem is usually in understanding light as an entity (Driver, Rushworth, Squires, & Wood-Robinson, 2005). As a consequence, students do not understand the sources of white light and aspects of light traveling from different surfaces to other objects.

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In many cases, students do not realize that the white color is a result of combining several different colors associated with light. Second, children often discuss shadows as non-depending on light, and they usually do not connect the absence of light with the appearance of visible shadows. Third, young students can have the developed misconceptions regarding light, reflection, and the use of mirrors and other similar surfaces (Driver et al., 2005). There are two main ideas developed by students in this context: light can stay on the mirror, and non-mirrored surfaces cannot reflect light.

The probes that are oriented to addressing some misconceptions and checking students’ understanding of the concept of light are effective because of their content and the structure of tasks. For instance, the first probe allows students to focus on different objects and surfaces that can or cannot reflect light. While trying to select surfaces that reflect light, a student checks his or her understanding regarding each of the proposed surfaces or objects.

As a result, this student can ask additional questions while focusing on variants that can be considered difficult (Driver et al., 2005). In addition, a student can formulate his or her own reasoning regarding the choice of variants, and a teacher can conclude about possible misconceptions in order to improve the material and work with this student additionally. Furthermore, the second probe is effective because it stimulates students’ thinking regarding the aspects of light, and while selecting the right variant, a student can examine and analyze other proposed variants. As a result, this probe is appropriate to develop students’ analytical skills.

However, in order to make the probes more effective, it is possible to modify their structure and content. The first probe is important to check students’ understanding of the light reflection in relation to different surfaces. Some students can have problems while answering the stated question and selecting the correct answer. Therefore, it is possible to add illustrations that depict different types of surfaces in order to help young children make their conclusions.

These illustrations should demonstrate a certain type of surface. It is also possible to modify the task and ask students to identify surfaces and objects that not only reflect light but also scatter it in order to group the presented objects and form a clear understanding of the phenomenon. The second probe can also be improved in order to check the in-depth understanding of the process. It is possible to propose to discuss different variants of the described situation with the focus on cases when apples are of different colors or there are various levels of light in the room.

This approach will be helpful for understanding students’ visions of colors, shadows, and the relationship between the individual’s perception of the object and its color depending on the light. For young children, it is possible to add some tips or hints to the probe in order to stimulate their thinking.

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Driver, R., Rushworth, P., Squires, A., & Wood-Robinson, V. (2005). Making sense of secondary science: Research into children’s ideas. New York, NY: Routledge.

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StudyCorgi. "Students' Misconceptions as to Qualities of Light." March 4, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Students' Misconceptions as to Qualities of Light." March 4, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Students' Misconceptions as to Qualities of Light'. 4 March.

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