A semiotic approach for the teaching of energy: linking mechanical work and heat with the world of objects and events



In this study an effort is made to provide links between the world of physics (theoretical) model about energy transfer with the world of objects and events. Taking into account a holistic approach on energy based on conservation of energy principle and a semiotic approach based on the multimodality of teaching, it was investigated whether a ‘no contact, contact plus change’ pattern can signify in the material world the separation and the interaction between the physical systems and the changes within the systems. An analysis of a teacher’s actions from a physics lesson and a physics textbook concerning mechanical work and heat as mechanisms of energy transfer was made, identifying the no contact, contact + change pattern in speech, written text, bodily acts and inscriptions. It was shown that this semiotic schema has the potential to transfer the physics model about mechanical work and heat to the world of objects and events avoiding ambiguities that create conceptual blending between transformation and transfer of energy. In addition, illustrating the idea of change by movement for mechanical work (position change) and by haptic contact or different colours for heat (temperature change) might be of great importance in teaching activities about transfer of energy. 


Transfer of energy, mechanical work, heat, semiotic actions, inscriptions

Full Text:



Antoniou, N., Demetriadis, P., Kampouris, K., Papamichalis, K., & Papatsimpa, L. (2006). Physics 2nd grade of lower secondary school. Athens: OEDB (in Greek).

Bächtold, M. (2018). How should energy be defined throughout schooling? Research in Science Education, 48(2), 345-367.

Delegkos, N., & Koliopoulos, D. (2020). Constructing the “energy” concept and its social use by students of primary education in Greece. Research in Science Education, 50(2), 393-418.

Doménech, J. L., Gil-Pérez, D., Gras-Martί, A., Guisasola, J., Martίnez-Torregrosa, J., Salinas, J., & Vilches, A. (2007). Teaching of energy issues: a debate proposal for a global reorientation. Science & Education, 16(1), 43-64.

Duit, R. (1987). Should energy be illustrated as something quasi-material? International Journal of Science Education, 9(2), 139-145.

Duval, R. (2006). A cognitive analysis of problems of comprehension in a learning of mathematics. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 61(1), 103-131.

Eisenkraft, A., Nordine, J., Chen, R. F., Fortus, D., Krajcik, J., Neumann, K., & Scheff, A. (2014). Introduction: Why focus on energy instruction? Teaching and Learning of Energy in K–12 Education (pp. 1-11). Springer, Cham.

Fragkiadaki, G., Fleer, M., & Ravanis, K. (2019). A cultural-historical study of the development of children’s scientific thinking about clouds in everyday life. Research in Science Education, 49(6), 1523-1545.

Givry, D., & Roth, W. M. (2006). Toward a new conception of conceptions: Interplay of talk, gestures, and structures in the setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(10), 1086 1109.

Givry, D., & Pantidos, P. (2012). Toward a multimodal approach of Science teaching. Skholê, 17, 123 130.

Givry, D., & Andreucci, C. (2015). Un schéma vaut-il mieux qu’un long discours ? Effets de l’utilisation de deux types de registres sémiotiques sur la mobilisation des idées des élèves de Seconde lors d’une évaluation sur les propriétés des gaz. Education & Didactique, 9(1), 119 142.

Givry, D., & Pantidos, P. (2015). Ambiguities in representing the concept of energy: A semiotic approach. Review of Science, Mathematics and ICT Education, 9(2), 41-64.

Jewett, J. (2008). Energy and the confused student IV: A global approach to energy. The Physics Teacher, 46, 210-217.

Jordan, B., & Henderson, A. (1995). Interaction analysis: Foundations and practice. The Journal of Learning Sciences, 4, 39-103.

Kaliampos, G. (2015). A small scale, qualitative study on exploring alternative conceptions of mechanics in students with autism. Educational Journal of the University of Patras UNESCO Chair, 2(2), 110-119.

Koliopoulos, D., & Argyropoulou, M. (2012). Constructing qualitative energy concepts in a formal educational context with 6-7-year-old students. Review of Science, Mathematics and ICT Education, 5(1), 63-80.

Koliopoulos, D., & Ravanis, K. (2000). Réflexions méthodologiques sur la formation d’une culture concernant le concept d’énergie à travers l’éducation formelle. Spirale, 26, 73-86.

Kress, G., Jewitt, C., Ogborn, J., & Tsatsarelis, C. (2001). Multimodal teaching and learning: The rhetorics of the science classroom. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Leontiev, A. N. (1978). Activity, Consciousness, and Personality. Hillsdale: Prentice-Hall.

Lee, H. S., & Liu, O. L. (2010). Assessing learning progression of energy concepts across middle school grades: The knowledge integration perspective. Science Education, 94(4), 665-688.

Lemeignan, G., & Weil-Barais, A. (1994). A developmental approach to cognitive change in mechanics. International Journal of Science Education, 16(1), 99 120.

Lemke, J. L. (1998). Multiplying meaning: Visual and verbal semiotics in scientific text. In J. R. Martin & R. Veel (Eds.), Reading Science (pp. 87-113). London: Routledge.

Lewis, E. L., & Linn, M. C. (1994). Heat energy and temperature concepts of adolescents, adults, and experts: Implications for curricular improvements. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(6), 657-677.

Meli, K., Koliopoulos, D., Lavidas, K., & Papalexiou, G. (2016). Upper secondary school students’ understanding of adiabatic compression. Review of Science, Mathematics and ICT Education, 10(2), 131-147.

Millar, R. H. (2005). Teaching about energy. Available at: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/129328/1/2005_Millar_Teaching_about_energy.pdf.

Pantidos, P. (2019). Epistemic, cognitive and semiotic significations in science teaching: The case of sound. European Journal of Education Studies, 6(4), 210-231.

Pantidos, P., & Givry, D. (2016). Connecting the teaching of mechanical work with the model of energy: a semiotic approach. Educational Journal of the University of Patras UNESCO Chair, 3(2), 317-326.

Pantidos, P., Valakas, K., Vitoratos, E., & Ravanis, K. (2008). Towards applied semiotics: An analysis of iconic gestural signs regarding physics teaching in the light of theatre semiotics. Semiotica, 172(1), 201–231.

Pozzer-Ardenghi, L. (2009). Research on inscriptions: Visual literacy, authentic science practices, and multimodality. In K. Tobin & W.-M. Roth (Eds.), The world of science education. Handbook of research in North America (pp. 307-324). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Pozzer-Ardenghi, L., & Roth, W.-M. (2010). Toward a social practice perspective on the work of reading inscriptions in Science texts. Reading Psychology, 31(3), 228 253.

Scherr, R. E., Close, H. G., Close, E. W., & Vokos, S. (2012). Representing energy. II. Energy tracking representations. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 8(2), 1-11.

Tang, K. S., Tan, S. C., & Yeo, J. (2011). Students’ multimodal construction of the work-energy concept. International Journal of Science Education, 33(13), 1775-1804.

Tiberghien, A. (1996). Construction of prototypical situations in teaching the concept of energy. In G. Welford, J. Osborne & P. Scott (Eds.), Research in Science Education in Europe. Current issues and themes (pp. 100-114). London, UK: The Falmer Press.

Tiberghien, A. (2000). Designing teaching situations in the secondary school. In R. Millar, J. Leach & J. Osborne (Eds.), Improving science education: The contribution of research (pp. 27-47). Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Tiberghien, A., Vince, J., & Gaidioz, P. (2009). Design‐based research: Case of a teaching sequence on mechanics. International Journal of Science Education, 31(17), 2275-2314.

Vince, J., & Tiberghien, A. (2012). Enseigner l'énergie en physique à partir de la question sociale du défi énergétique. Review of Science, Mathematics and ICT Education, 6(1), 89-124.

Warren, J. W. (1982). The nature of energy. European Journal of Science Education, 4(3), 295-297.

Watts, D. M. (1983). Some alternative views of energy. Physics Education, 18(5), 213-217.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26220/rev.3563

View Counter: Abstract | 341 | times, and PDF | 182 | times

Re S M ICT E | ISSN: 1792-3999 (electronic), 1791-261X (print) | Laboratory of Didactics of Sciences, Mathematics and ICT, Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood Education - University of Patras.

Pasithee | Library & Information Center | University of Patras