Energy is considered both a core idea and a crosscutting concept in science education. A thorough understanding of the energy concept is thought to help students learn about other (related) concepts within and across science subjects, thereby fostering scientific literacy. This study investigates students’ progression in understanding the energy concept in biological contexts at the transition from primary to lower secondary school by employing a quantitative, cross-sectional study in grades 3–6 (N = 540) using complex multiple-choice items. Based on a model developed in a previous study, energy concepts were assessed along four aspects of energy: (1) forms and sources of energy, (2) transfer and transformation, (3) degradation and dissipation, and (4) energy conservation. Two parallel test forms (A and B) indicated energy concept scores to increase significantly by a factor of 2.3 (A)/1.7 (B) from grade 3 to grade 6. Students were observed to progress in their understanding of all four aspects of the concept and scored highest on items for energy forms. The lowest scores and the smallest gain across grades were found for energy conservation. Based on our results, we argue that despite numerous learning opportunities, students lack a more integrated understanding of energy at this stage, underlining the requirement of a more explicit approach to teaching energy to young learners. Likewise, more interdisciplinary links for energy learning between relevant contexts in each science discipline may enable older students to more efficiently use energy as a tool and crosscutting concept with which to analyze complex content.
Translated title of the contributionDas Energiekonzept von Schülern am Übergang von Grund und weiterführender Schule
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Science Education
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)691-715
Publication statusPublished - 10.2015
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    Research areas

  • Research in teaching and learning - Energy, Biology, Core idea, Crosscutting concept, Learning progression, Interdisciplinary learning

ID: 60185