Research in Science Education

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 515–538 | Cite as

Physics Teachers’ Perceptions of the Difficulty of Teaching Electricity

  • Richard Gunstone
  • Pamela Mulhall
  • Brian McKittrick


As part of a project concerned with developing a better understanding of the detail of appropriate teaching of direct current (DC) electricity concepts, extensive individual interviews were conducted with a number of experienced senior high school physics teachers. These interviews explored teachers’ perceptions of difficulties in student learning and their own teaching of DC electricity, their uses of models and analogies in this teaching, and their own understandings of the concepts of DC electricity. Eight high school physics teachers from the Australian state of Victoria were interviewed: three who had a strong focus on student understanding in their classrooms and five who used more traditional approaches. We also interviewed three authors of textbooks then currently used in senior high school physics in Victoria, all of whom were also teachers of high school physics. All but one of these eleven interviewees was a very experienced teacher of DC electricity at the senior high school level. The interview data are summarized and implications for curriculum and teaching/learning of electricity are considered. There was a wide range of views among the teachers about the difficulties of both the concepts of DC electricity and the teaching of these concepts, and about the nature of physics knowledge. A number of the interviewees revealed levels of conceptual understanding that we see as of concern. Some of the teachers whose understanding causes us concern made clear early in the interview their view that the concepts of DC electricity were essentially straight forward; in all cases these interviewees had by the end of the interview reconsidered this position.


Physics teaching Electricity High School 



This research was funded by Australian Research Council Large Grant A00104120.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Gunstone
    • 1
  • Pamela Mulhall
    • 1
    • 2
  • Brian McKittrick
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationMonash UniversityMonashAustralia
  2. 2.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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