How Difficult are Simple Electrical Circuit Conceptions? New Findings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on conceptual understanding is one of the first steps in designing materials to improve learning. Literature reports that students have difficulties analyzing and describing phenomena in electric circuits. This report contributes to students' conceptual difficulties regarding simple electrical circuits by systematically analyzing an open conceptual test answered by 531 first-year engineering students. We found students' reasoning that has not yet been reported in the literature as misconceptions or difficulties. To deepen our understanding of students' difficulties, we chose five students by convenience to interview. We present evidence that there are two main contributions to the taxonomy in this study: the Series Circuit Misconception, which is when students convey that the current through bulbs is the same because they are in series, using that as a mnemonic ignoring any change in the circuit; and the Inverse Parallel Circuit Misconception, that is when students mention that the resistance of the circuit decreases when disconnecting bulbs in parallel, neither are reported in the literature. The results of this study have implications for physics education research in electric circuits and educational practice in the classroom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1284
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Educational Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Educational innovation
  • electric circuits
  • higher education
  • students' conceptions
  • students' difficulties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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