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Student activity — a way to improve the conceptual understanding of physics in Lao PDR?
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Physics.
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis reports about Laotian students’ understanding of the concepts of mechanics, and students’ activities when solving physics problems in groups. Totally, more than 1,000 first year university students from three universities in Laos have been tested using two versions of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) over a period of three years. The Force Concept Inventory was developed in the USA to test students’ understanding of mechanics concepts. The contexts of some questions were unfamiliar for Laotian students and therefore another Laotian version was constructed. We found that Lao students obtained a low score on the FCI. The average scores of the post-test ranged from 21% to 26% over the three years. The introduction of the Laotian version resulted in just a small improvement of the score but it helped the students to read and understand the questions more quickly. It was difficult to perceive from the answers to the FCI if the students used alternative conceptions however, in video recordings it could be seen that some students did use well-known alternative conceptions. In many cases, students seemed to use their everyday life experiences to find the answers to the FCI questions instead of referring to physics concepts.

Group discussions were introduced in tutorial sessions for first year students. There were two types of group discussions. In the first type 29 groups solved end-of-chapter problems and three groups were recorded. One group described the physics theory of the problem before they selected equations and successfully solved the problem. Students in this group were not afraid to raise disagreements; they asked questions and took turns answering them which resulted in a fruitful discussion. The other two groups made the major mistake of not considering that the object moved with constant speed. Students suggested equations to use without giving any arguments based on physics theory. Both groups got stuck and needed help from the teacher. It was found that the problem solving strategy in the physics textbook did not include the important step of describing the physics theory and could actually encourage students to start looking for equations without first describing the physics.

In the second type of group discussions 52 groups discussed qualitative multiple-choice questions. Seven groups were recorded and 14 students and three teachers were interviewed. In the group discussions most students co-constructed an answer. However, the students in general did not seem to come to an understanding of the physics concepts and the follow-up discussion in class was essential for a better understanding. To improve the discussions, the students need more time and should also be taught about working in groups.

The thesis is concluded with a section on the implications for education in physics in Lao PDR.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, Department of Physics , 2011. , 97 p.
Keyword [en]
Mechanics concept, Group discussion, Problem solving strategy, alternative concepts, context.
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43355ISBN: 978-91-7459-203-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-43355DiVA: diva2:413217
Public defence
2011-05-20, Naturvetarhuset, N430, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-04-29 Created: 2011-04-27 Last updated: 2011-05-05Bibliographically 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. Using a context adjusted version of the force concept inventory to probe Laotioan university students understanding of mechanics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using a context adjusted version of the force concept inventory to probe Laotioan university students understanding of mechanics
2008 (English)In: Proceedings of the XIII IOSTE Symposium: The Use of Science and Technology Education for Peace and Sustainable Development / [ed] Bulent Cavas, Ankara/Turkey: Palme Publications & Bookshops LTD.CO. , 2008, 552-558 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this study, we investigated how much the students’ score in the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) could change when the questions were changed to another context but with the same physics content. We used both the original FCI and another version in which we had changed the context in the questions. A sample of 410 freshman students from School of Foundation Studies at three universities in Laos was given one of two versions of the Force Concept Inventory, along with an additional brief questionnaire, that asked about what the students thought about the test. Eight students were selected for an interview. The results of this study suggest that context of the questions has an affect on the FCI score. The average score is, though, very low with both versions of the test. However, by changing the context and adding some pictures, the students could read and understand the questions more easily.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ankara/Turkey: Palme Publications & Bookshops LTD.CO., 2008
Keyword
Lao context, Visualization, Physics concepts
National Category
Physical Sciences Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-23150 (URN)
Conference
XIII IOSTE Symposium 2008
Available from: 2009-06-01 Created: 2009-06-01 Last updated: 2011-10-14Bibliographically approved
3. Comparison of three groups of Physics Students Discussing the same Mechanics Problem.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Comparison of three groups of Physics Students Discussing the same Mechanics Problem.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Group discussions were introduced in the tutorial session in an introductory physics course at university level. We have video recorded three groups with four, three, and six students that solve one end-of-chapter question. In this paper we show some examples of how students cooperate and communicate when they solve these problems, and what obstacles can hinder the group to find the solution of the question. We found that one group took turns to help each other and explain physics concepts or how to use physics equations. The other two groups shared both correct and false ideas but no one could discriminate between good and bad ideas. Both groups got stuck and needed help from the teacher. Some minimum level of physics knowledge is required for a fruitful discussion in the groups. In one of the groups a bad seating arrangement affected the discussion negatively. 

Keyword
End-of-chapter question, group discussion
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43298 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-26 Created: 2011-04-26 Last updated: 2011-04-28
4. The influence of group work discussion on scores of Force Concept Inventory in Lao PDR
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The influence of group work discussion on scores of Force Concept Inventory in Lao PDR
2010 (English)In: Proceedings of International Conference of Physics Education: ICPE-2009 / [ed] Boonchoat Paosawatyanyong, Pornrat Wattanakasiwich, American Institute of Physics (AIP), 2010, 102-105 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this study, we investigated if freshman student's participation in small group discussions in the tutorial sessions would influence their score of the Lao version of the Force Concept Inventory test (LFCI). We used the LFCI version to test 188 students'' understanding of mechanics concepts before and after they studied mechanics at university. In three classes the students used group discussions when they solved the end-of-chapter questions in the textbook during tutorials and they also used group discussions to answer the LFCI. We video recorded three groups when they solved end-of-chapter questions. In two classes the students both solved the problems and answered the LFCI individually. A questionnaire about advantages and disadvantages of cooperative group and individual problem solving were handed out to the students. The questionnaire was supplemented by interviews with four students and three groups. We found that almost all students would like to work with group discussions; only 3% of them were negative. Students that worked with group discussions obtained an average score of 26% correct answers to the LFCI which was slightly higher than the average score of 23% for students that worked individually. The improvement from the pre- to the post-test in average score was 7 percentage points for classes with group discussions and 6 percentage points for classes with individual problem solving. It is not possible to claim that one of these ways of study will result in a larger improvement in the LFCI-score. Apparently, the group discussions did not help the students to improve their theoretical understanding of mechanics concepts as it is tested by the LFCI. However, it was observed in the video analysis that group discussions helped students to better understand mechanics concepts in the context of solving the end-of-chapter questions in the textbook. This observation was also supported by the students' answers to the questionnaire and the interview.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Institute of Physics (AIP), 2010
Series
, AIP Conference Proceedings, ISSN 1551-7616 ; 1263
Keyword
education, research initiatives, training, educational courses; science in school, research in physics education, teacher training, curricula and evaluation
National Category
Didactics Physical Sciences
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-40513 (URN)10.1063/1.3479842 (DOI)000283480300023 ()978-0-7354-0816-6 (ISBN)
Conference
International Conference on Physics Education, Bangkok Thailand, 18-24 October 2009
Available from: 2011-02-25 Created: 2011-02-25 Last updated: 2015-09-28Bibliographically approved
5. On the use of two versions of the Force Concept Inventory to test conceptual understanding of mechanics in Lao PDR.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the use of two versions of the Force Concept Inventory to test conceptual understanding of mechanics in Lao PDR.
2011 (English)In: Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, ISSN 1305-8223, Vol. 7, no 2, 103-114 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

In this study, we investigated why Laotian students had a low score, when they were tested by the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). About 400 first year university students answered the FCI or a Lao version of the FCI (LFCI) with the contexts of some questions changed. The students answered a questionnaire and 34 of the students were interviewed. The students found the FCI/LFCI questions difficult and the phenomena in some of the questions unfamiliar, for example questions about ice hockey. The results show that the low score cannot be explained by specific alternative conceptions and only to a very small part by unfamiliar context. The explanation seems to be that the students relied on everyday life experiences when they answered the questions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Eurasian Society of Educational Research, 2011
Keyword
Alternative conceptions, Everyday life experience, Force Concept Inventory, Physics concepts, Context of questions.
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43299 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-26 Created: 2011-04-26 Last updated: 2011-10-07Bibliographically approved
6. Problems and possibilities when changing teaching in physics to more students’ activity.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Problems and possibilities when changing teaching in physics to more students’ activity.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Group discussions were introduced in an introductory physics course at the National University of Laos. About 200 students discussed two qualitative questions in groups of 3-4 students. This was followed by discussions in the whole class. We identified problems and possibilities with this new method. Seven groups were recorded and students and teachers were interviewed. Many of the students had problems with mechanics concepts. In the group discussions most students co-constructed an answer. However, the students in general did not seem to come to an understanding of the physics concepts, and the follow-up discussion in class was essential for a better understanding. To improve the discussions, the students need more time and should also be taught about working in groups.

Keyword
Changing teaching, Co-construction, Group discussion, Mechanics.
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43300 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-26 Created: 2011-04-26 Last updated: 2011-04-28
7. Students Discussing Physics in Small Groups at University level in Lao PDR.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Students Discussing Physics in Small Groups at University level in Lao PDR.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Group discussions were introduced in the tutorial session in an introductory physics course at university level. We have video recorded three groups with three, four, and six students that solve an end-of-chapter problem. In this study we focus on how students cooperate and what obstacles that can hinder their cooperation. Do the students follow a recommended problem solving strategy? What difficulties do the students encounter and what signs of learning can be seen? One group described the physics of the problem before they selected equations and successfully solved the problem. Students in this group were not afraid to raise disagreements, they asked questions, and took turns answering them which resulted in a fruitful discussion. The other two groups made the major mistake to not consider that the object moved with constant speed. Students suggested equations to use without giving any physics arguments. Both groups got stuck and needed help from the teacher. It was found that the problem solving strategy in the physics textbook did not include the important step of describing the physics. As the strategy is formulated it can actually encourage students to start looking for equations without describing the physics first. Two clear signs of learning were observed. One student learned the correct way to use sine and cosine and many students discovered the importance to use the information of constant speed. A too large group and a bad seating arrangement affected the discussions negatively.

Keyword
End-of-chapter problem, group discussion, Problem solving strategy.
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43301 (URN)
Available from: 2011-04-26 Created: 2011-04-26 Last updated: 2011-04-28

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