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The role of practical work in physics education in Lao PDR
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Physics.
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to get a better understanding of the role of practical work in physics education in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). The Lao PDR is one of least developed countries in the world with a weak base for science, and poor market opportunities for science graduates. The rapidly expanding educational system has many problems concerning quality of the infrastructure and staff competence.

A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was used in the study in order to assure reliability of the results. Data was collected through questionnaires, interviews, video-recordings, and my own ethnographic experiences of working in the Lao educational system for more than thirty years. The study was informed and results analysed with help of curriculum perspective and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT).

The findings show that Lao physics education curriculum at all levels is dominated by very traditional forms of teaching with an almost total absence of practical. Official curricular documents have statements prescribing teachers to do practical work in high school and university courses. However, few institutions have functioning equipment and skilled teachers for organising practical activities. Therefore, the majority of Lao students come to university and even can finish university without experience of practical work in physics. This shows the gap that exists between intended and implemented curricula. The majority of the students understand the importance of having practical activities in physics. However, after being exposed to laboratory experiments in an introductory physics course, they expressed criticism about the quality of instruction and the process of the practical work organisation. The laboratory group work analysis showed that discussions were mainly focused on understanding the experimental procedures, manipulating equipment, and collecting data for the report rather than on the physics content (object of activity, in CHAT terms).

Based on the research results, it is possible to suggest that a systemic approach is needed to stimulate the development of a new practical work culture in schools and universities. This approach should include training and incentives for science teachers, development of assessment strategies including practical work, maintenance structures for physics equipment, and technical support for the organisation of demonstrations and laboratory exercises.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för fysik, Umeå universitet , 2011. , 45 p.
Keyword [en]
Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, laboratory work, Laos, pendulum experiment, physics curriculum, physics education research, practical activities
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-42134ISBN: 978-91-7459-172-9OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-42134DiVA: diva2:408814
Public defence
2011-04-29, KBC-huset, KB3A9, Umeå University, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-04-08 Created: 2011-04-06 Last updated: 2011-04-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. An analysis of the students' perceptions of physics in science foundation studies at the national University of Laos
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An analysis of the students' perceptions of physics in science foundation studies at the national University of Laos
2010 (English)In: Canadian and International Education Journal, ISSN 0315-1409, Vol. 39, no 1, 32-40 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper presents the situation of physics teaching and learning at the Science Foundation Studies program at National University of Laos. The study has focused on the students' understanding of concepts in mechanics, and the situation of the laboratory work activities. The research tools used in this study were the Force Concept Inventory test, interviews and questionnaires. The results show that in an international comparison the Lao students reveal a low level of conceptual understanding in mechanics. They also show no improvement in their conceptual understanding after teaching. The students have little experience of laboratory work. They had expectations that laboratory work would be an interesting part of Physics Foundation Studies Course. However, few of the students do get involved in the actual measurements and handling of equipment during the practical activities. So, many of them do not feel that they learn much physics through laboratory work. This corresponds to their teachers' understandings as well. Some strategies for improving the above mentioned aspects of physics teaching based on physics education research will be suggested.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Comparative and International Education Society of Canada, CIESC, 2010
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-40528 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-05 Created: 2011-02-25 Last updated: 2011-04-28Bibliographically approved
2. The situation with practical work in physics education in Laos
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The situation with practical work in physics education in Laos
2008 (English)In: Proceedings of the XIII. IOSTE Symposium: The use of scince and technology education for peace and sustainable development / [ed] Bulent Cavas, Ankara, Turkey: Palme publication & bookshops ltd.co. , 2008, 559-565 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper describes the results of a study on the situation with and the opinions about practical work in physics at high school and university levels in Laos. The research tools used for data collection were questionnaires and interviews. The total number of informants for this study was 678, including 631 first year science students from School of Foundation Studies, 26 lecturers from universities and teacher training colleges, and 20 physics teachers from high schools. The students from School of Foundation Studies and their lecturers answered the open-ended questions, while the structured interviews were used to collect data from informants in high schools. The findings indicate that the absolute majority of students show high appreciation of practical activities in physics. However, some lecturers and students expressed critic about the quality of instruction and process of the practical work organization. The lack of laboratory and demonstration equipment in high schools and universities in Laos was an issue of concern for many students and physics teachers. All informants were convinced about the importance of practical work in physics but they were all unhappy about the current situation with practical activities in physics teaching in Laos.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ankara, Turkey: Palme publication & bookshops ltd.co., 2008
Keyword
demonstrations, laboratory work, Lao PDR, practical activities, diagnostic study
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-42085 (URN)
Conference
13th IOSTE Symposium, Izmir, Turkey, September 21-26, 2008.
Available from: 2011-04-05 Created: 2011-04-05 Last updated: 2014-01-13Bibliographically approved
3. Analysis of Lao university students' collaborative activities in a pendulum experiment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Analysis of Lao university students' collaborative activities in a pendulum experiment
2010 (English)In: Physics community & cooperation: selected contributions from the GIREP-EPEC & PHEC 2009 International Conference / [ed] D. Raine, C. Hurkett and L. Rogers, 2010, 289-300 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this study we have analysed students’ collaborative activities when they per- formed an experimental task with a pendulum. Five groups, with three to seven first year science students in each group, were videotaped. We continuously recorded each group during their practical work session with an average duration of 55 min- utes. Some students from each group were interviewed directly after the experi- mental session. When the video recordings were analysed, students’ activities and communication patterns were classified into eleven categories. The analysis evi- dences that the students collaborated actively in the groups helping each other han- dle the equipment and discussing how to perform the measurements. However in the largest working group, two students did not touch the measurement equipment and they did not take part in solving the experimental tasks. Other students in this and other groups collaborated well, but they revealed poor experimental skills and not all groups were able to complete the task. The students’ group discussions were mainly focused on understanding the experimental procedures and collecting data for the report rather than on the physics content. This revealed their shared priority of experimental activity: to pass the compulsory experimental part of the course. Just a few students tried to raise the issues about the goals stated in the laboratory work sheet concerning understanding of relations between different pendulum pa- rameters and verification of the value ofg (acceleration due to gravity). Evidence collected from the analysis of the video recordings and the follow-up interviews with the students showed that difficulty in understanding the laboratory instruction, faulty equipment, and insufficient help from the laboratory instructor constituted the main factors that led to a non -successful completion of the experimental task by some groups.

National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-40532 (URN)978-1-4461-6219-4 (ISBN)
Conference
GIREP-EPEC & PHEC 2009 International Conference, August 17-21, University of Leicester, UK
Available from: 2011-04-05 Created: 2011-02-25 Last updated: 2014-01-13Bibliographically approved
4. Contemporary curriculum challenges in undergraduate physics education in Laos
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Contemporary curriculum challenges in undergraduate physics education in Laos
2009 (English)In: Curriculum and teaching in science: Proceedings of the 2009 EASE International Conference of East-Asian Science Education / [ed] Ching-Yang Chou, Taipei, Taiwan: EASE Organizing Committee , 2009, 161-176 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper aims to provide an understanding of the current situation with regard to university physics education in Laos in the light of historical and socio-caltiral perspectives. The reported study was conducted at the Department of Physics, National University of Laos, the data for which was collected through interviews with 11 lecturers and 23 university students. The findings indicate that most students have a low motivation to study physics. For the majority of students, enrolment at the Department of Physics was their last option for asmission and the least desirable choice in getting a degree in higher education. The study also shows that existing faculty staff is underpaid, have low administrative and technical support for their work and themselves have litle motivation to invest time and energy in teaching. There is thus a tendency to neglect technically and pedagogically demanding yet indispensible educational activities such as the organisation of laboratory work. Usually, students do not receive any feedback on their laboratory reports, resulting in limited learning from the practical component of their physics education. This paper discusses curriculum challenges in the provision of good quality tertiary physics education in Laos and an argument is put forward in favour of meeting these curriculum challenges together with some specific recommendations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taipei, Taiwan: EASE Organizing Committee, 2009
Keyword
curriculum development, Lao PDR, physics education, qualitative research, CHAT
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-42122 (URN)
Conference
First Biennial EASE Conference, October 21-23, 2009, Taipei, Taiwan
Available from: 2011-04-05 Created: 2011-04-05 Last updated: 2011-04-08Bibliographically approved
5. Constructing physics education in different contexts: changing contexts - changing values
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Constructing physics education in different contexts: changing contexts - changing values
2010 (English)In: Socio-cultural and human values in science and technology education : Proceedings of the XIV. IOSTE Symposium / [ed] Slavko Dolinšek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia: Institution for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana , 2010, 917-927 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents an analysis of how changes in the socio-economic context of an educational system affect the value base of the physics education embedded in this context. Based on the assumption that physics education is a socially constructed phenomenon developed within a particular socio-historical context with particular types of social relations, this study aims to highlight the features of physics education that are most sensitive to changes in the macro-context. In this paper empirical material was gathered from two countries (Laos and Russia). In both countries dramatic economic changes have taken place since the end of the 1980's, however, Laos has maintained the same one-party rule political system while the Russian political context has changed significantly. These countries also belong to the different cultural contexts of East and West, the consideration of which can contribute to an understanding of the corresponding value-base reflected in physics education. The qualitative research methodology used in this study includes data gathering through document and statistical report analysis, personal ethnographic experience and interviews with physicists and physics educators. It is argued that changes in educational values are not only discussed and experienced but actually created within physics education institutions in these countries against the backdrop of the macro-contextual changes taking place over the last twenty years.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia: Institution for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana, 2010
Keyword
Laos, macro-context, physics education, Russia, values
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-42123 (URN)978-961-92882-1-4 (ISBN)
Conference
The XIV. IOSTE Symposium, Bled, Slovenia, June 13-18, 2010
Available from: 2011-04-05 Created: 2011-04-05 Last updated: 2011-04-08Bibliographically approved
6. Acting with pendulum: the process matters where the object also should
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Acting with pendulum: the process matters where the object also should
2011 (English)Other (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper analyses factors affecting undergraduate Lao students activities during their first laboratory work in physics - the pendulum experiment. Seven student groups (of three students each) were selected and video recorded at the National University of Laos. Each recording lasted on average about 55 minutes. In addition, the students’ lab reports were analysed. The Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) was used as a theoretical framework for the data analyses. The findings indicate that nearly all students had difficulties handling the equipment. Students conducted measurements but did not have clear understanding of the objectives of the experimental task. Their lab reports contained tables with data collected and mathematical calculations but had no discussion related to the physics of the experiment, accuracy of the measurements or reflections about the trustworthiness of the results obtained. The process of doing the experiment appeared to be more important than related learning outcomes. Lack of experience of doing practical work, gap between theory and practice, poor quality of the lab instructions, and faulty equipment were identified as other factors affecting the efficiency of the experiment

Keyword
pendulum experiment, student activity, undergraduate physics education, CHAT
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-42124 (URN)
Note
Synopsis of the paper accepted for ESERA 2011, Lyon, France, September 5-9, 2011Available from: 2011-04-05 Created: 2011-04-05 Last updated: 2011-04-08Bibliographically approved

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