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Contemporary curriculum challenges in undergraduate physics education in Laos
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Physics.
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, Published 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. 161-176 p.
Keyword [en]
curriculum development, Lao PDR, physics education, qualitative research, CHAT
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-42122OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-42122DiVA: diva2:408671
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
In thesis
1. The role of practical work in physics education in Lao PDR
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The role of practical work in physics education in Lao PDR
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
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:nbn:se:umu:diva-42134 (URN)978-91-7459-172-9 (ISBN)
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

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