Thermal Energy and Internal Energy


The AQA GCSE Science specification calls for students to understand and apply the concepts of not only thermal energy stores but also internal energy. What follows is my understanding of the distinction between the two, which I hope will be of use to all science teachers.

My own understanding of this topic has undergone some changes thanks to some fascinating (and ongoing) discussions via EduTwitter.

What I suggest is that we look at the phenomena in question through two lenses:

  • a macroscopic lens, where we focus on things we can sense and measure directly in the laboratory
  • a microscopic lens, where we focus on using the particle model to explain phase changes such as melting and freezing.

Thermal Energy Through the Macroscopic Lens

Screenshot 2019-04-14 at 14.29.39.pngThe enojis for thermal energy stores (as suggested by the Institute of Physics) look like this (Note: ‘enoji’ = ‘energy’ + ’emoji’; and that the…

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The power of a school’s reputation should galvanise the pupils themselves……..

The Quirky Teacher

We all want and need great leaders – people who possess a vision that fills us with hope, gives us a sense of belonging and who have the ability to rally us all with their powerful speeches, evidence of trustworthiness and general clout. These days, it seems as if our nation’s leaders fall short on all counts and instead we are immersed in a narrative that reminds us how weak, pathetic and needy we are and how we all need to be saved, protected and mollycoddled. Rather than a ‘we can do it if we work together as a team‘, we have ‘you can’t do anything, so we need to do it all for you‘ that everyone seems to love.

Compare this to war time when bombs where dropping on London: did we all just lie down and die? No. We sang songs, shared precious resources…

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Governance in the spring and summer terms; reflecting and looking ahead matters

Governing Matters

This has been a long and tiring term. As Easter approaches and governance slows down (it never stops completely!) I find myself sitting down with a cup of tea and looking back and reflecting on the term that was and also looking ahead to the last term of the year.

A major event in the Spring term was an inspection. One of the schools, Crofton Junior, belonging to Connect Schools Academy Trust where I’m a trustee, was inspected just before half term. This was a Good school and had had a short inspection last April. The inspection felt very thorough but fair. Governors and trustees met with the Inspector and had a chance to talk through what we knew of the school’s strengths and where we could do even more. The Inspector had read our minutes and understood MAT governance. The feedback was constructive. On a professional level, the inspector…

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Welsh students to know less than their English peers

Filling the pail

In 2017, I wrote a post about Scotland’s disastrous ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. Soon afterwards I was contacted by a number of Welsh teachers who asked me whether I was aware of what was happening in Wales. I was not aware and so I looked into it.

Britain is currently involved in a grimly fascinating natural experiment. While England has taken steps to boost early reading instruction and generally enhance the quality of knowledge taught in the curriculum, Scotland and Wales have sought a trendier approach, typified by the advice of people like Andreas Schleicher, head of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

To Schleicher, education for the future is very different to education of the past, as he explains:

Today, the world no longer rewards us just for what we know – Google knows everything – but for what we can do with what we know.

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Three animated films about learning – David Didau: The Learning Spy

Back in December I gave a lecture to the staff of BBC Bitesize about how learning works and how they might go about making more effective learning materials. This talk has been turned into a series…

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Three styles of problem-solving


How leaders deal with problems determines  . . . well, everything.

It’s an awkward truth that some leaders feel safest in a state of crisis. In a crisis, everyone is too preoccupied with how to cope to raise awkward questions about strategy, goals and long-term decisions; and because survival is the name of the game, everything is short term. Weathering crisis after crisis also fits the narrative of being selfless and burdened by others’ stress, which makes for a certain kind of reputation. Unfortunately, such a reputation is undeserved when the very same leader is largely responsible for the stress of colleagues, because they maintain the organisation in a state of perpetual crisis.  I once worked in a school where teachers were exhausted by constantly dealing with disruptive behaviour from students. The school leaders were more comfortable with this situation than sorting out the behaviour. They argued that teachers would…

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How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 4: Instruction – David Didau: The Learning Spy

This is the final post in a series looking at how we can be sure that students are making progress through the curriculum. The whole purpose of knowing whether students are making progress is to be…

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