Magnetism and Electromagnetism

The basic ideas of magnetism, interaction between magnets and magnetic objects and magnetic fields should have been covered at primary level and again at KS3 and so it would be hoped that students will be familiar with them although it is worth checking. The idea of a ‘field’ around a magnet can be conceptually demanding for some, they may have seen the field lines in a diagram or demonstration but these are imaginary constructs and not a ‘real’ thing in the way that the magnet itself is considered real.

It’s common for some students to struggle when learning about transformers, motors and electromagnetic induction. It requires the combination of an understanding of the relationships between current, potential difference (and resistance) as well as the interaction between magnetic fields and charge carrying conductors. It is also common for the magnetic effect of a current, the electric motor and the generator (dynamo) to be taught a separate phenomena rather than all part of the same set of ideas. Individually they may be easy to demonstrate (current carrying wire moving in a magnetic field, moving wire in a magnetic field induces a current)  but connecting all of these together can be a challenge for students.

The multi-step process that takes the ideas from a generator (a changing magnetic field can induce a voltage in a conductor) and then applies this to the workings of a transformer can also be very challenging for some.

The building of electric motors can be a fun and engaging activity but equally the physical complexity of the activity can create barriers to understanding. The simple electric motor shown in the list below (electric motor) can help to show the interaction between a current carrying ‘wire’ and a magnetic field as a principle although can become quite complex if you look too closely at the magnetic fields involved.

As a final thought this video of Richard Feynman is an absolute classic in terms of physics teaching and well worth a watch.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance.