Research in Science Education

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 253–260 | Cite as

The effect of the direction of motion on students' conceptions of forces

  • David Palmer


The ability to generalise principles to a range of situations is generally considered to be important in science education. However, several studies have found that students do not consistently apply their conceptions in the study of mechanics, and that they respond to irrelevant contextual features of the question, such as the type of object in motion. The present study was designed to investigate whether the direction of the motion (i.e. vertical or horizontal) was a contextual feature which influenced students' ideas about the forces involved in motion. The results indicated that 14% of the university science teaching students studied and 25% of the Year 10 students were influenced by the direction of the motion. Some of these students described a ‘motion force’ in one direction (usually vertical) but not the other, while others described forces opposing the motion in one direction (which was always vertical) but not the other.


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Copyright information

© Australasian Science Education Research Association 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Palmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of NewcastleNewcastle

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