A Case Study of What Experiences Contribute to The Ideas of Energy Held By Primary School Students in Trinidad and Tobago

  • Rawatee Maharaj Sharma The University of the West Indies
  • Amrit Sharma


This case study explored what experiences contribute to the ideas of energy held by 30 purposively selected primary school students from one primary school in Trinidad and Tobago. The 30 students were selected from across all levels of the primary system. The study used the Interview About Events (IAE) approach to explore students’ ideas about energy and further to reveal what experiences have led to them having these ideas. During the IAE exercise, flashcards of events and items were shown to students to prompt responses from them and to initiate a semi structured interview. Their interview responses were used to gauge what experiences contributed to the ideas they had. The findings showed that students ideas were as a result of many different experiences but that these experiences could be grouped into one of three categories: hearsay experiences, incomplete understandings,
classroom experiences. Most of the students at the lower primary levels held ideas about energy arising from either hearsay experiences or incomplete ideas, while many of the upper primary level students explained their ideas about energy by referring to their classroom experiences. This paper presents the findings of this small-scale exploration.


Boutte, G., Kelly-Jackson, C., & Johnson, G. L. (2010). Culturally relevant teaching in science classrooms: Addressing academic achievement, cultural competence, and critical consciousness. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 12, 1-20.
Chin, C. (2001). Eliciting students’ ideas and understandings in science: Diagnostic assessment strategies for teachers. Teaching and Learning, 21(2), 72-85.
Corpuz, E.D. & Rebello, N.S. (2011). Investigating students’ mental models and knowledge construction of microscopic friction. I. Implications for curriculum design and development. Physics Education Research, 7, 020102-1 – 020102-9.
Duit, R., & Haeussler, P. (1994). Learning and teaching energy. In P. Fensham, R. Gunstone, & R. White (Eds.), The content of science (pp. 185-200). London: The Falmer Press.
Gentner, D. & Stevens, A.L. (1983). Mental models. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawerence Erlbaum.
Gilbert, J.K., Watts, D.M., & Osborne, R. (1985). Eliciting student views using an interviewabout- instances technique. In H. T. L. West & A. L. Pines (Eds.), Conceptual structure and conceptual change (pp. 11-27). London, UK: Academic Press.
Glaser, G.B. (2002). The grounded theory perspective II. Mill Valley, Ca: Sociology Press. Hammer, D. Goldberg, F. & Fargason, S. (2012). Responsive teaching and the beginnings of energy in a third grade classroom. Review of Science Mathematics and ICT Education, 6(1), 51-72.
Harrer, B.W., Flood, V.J., & Wittmann, M.C. (2013). Productive resources in students’ ideas about energy: An alternative analysis of Watts’ original interview transcripts. Physics Review Special Topics Physics Education Research, 9, 023101-023105
Johnson-Liard, P.N. (1983). Mental models: Towards a cognitive science of language, inference and consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kruger, C. (1990). Some primary teachers’ ideas about energy. Physics Education, 25, 86-91. Maharaj-Sharma, R. (2011). What are students’ ideas about the concept of an electric current? A primary school perspective. Caribbean Curriculum, 18, 69-85.
Mann, M.F. (2003). Students’ use of formal and informal knowledge about energy and the human body. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia.
Mann, M.F. & Treagust, D.F. (2010). Students’ conceptions about energy and the human body. Science Education International, 21(3), 144-159.
Nordine, J., Krajcik, J. & Fortus, D. (2011). Transforming Energy instruction in middle school to support integrated understanding and future learning. Science Education, 95(4), 670-699.
Ritchie, J. & Lewis, J. (2003). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. London: SAGE Publications.
Watts, M.D. (1983). Some alternative views of energy, Physics Education 18, 213 (1983).
Yvonna, l. & Egon, G. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. London: SAGE Publications.
How to Cite
SHARMA, Rawatee Maharaj; SHARMA, Amrit. A Case Study of What Experiences Contribute to The Ideas of Energy Held By Primary School Students in Trinidad and Tobago. European Journal of Physics Education, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 4, p. 42-53, feb. 2017. ISSN 1309-7202. Available at: <http://eu-journal.org/index.php/EJPE/article/view/74>. Date accessed: 01 feb. 2023.