Lessons that non-scientists can teach us about the concept of energy: a human-centred approach
Institute of Physics
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences
Energy is not only a core concept in physics but also a major issue in our post-Kyoto world. When using a constructivist approach to teaching, we need to be aware of students' preconceptions. A palette of alternative frameworks, which includes those used by adults within the community, can facilitate this. An exploration of energy issues with non-scientists within the community has generated some relevant insights. Participants' concepts of energy were multifaceted. Most had a strong personal component, but also social, technical and cosmic dimensions. Although many participants were uncomfortable with the terms `renewable' and `sustainable', they clearly articulated the social and technical requirements for a shift away from current fossil fuel dependency. However, the law of conservation of energy, a core belief of physicists, appeared to be totally absent from their concept of energy.