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Comparison of three groups of Physics Students Discussing the same Mechanics Problem.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Physics.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Physics.
(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 [en]
End-of-chapter question, group discussion
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43298OAI: diva2:412922
Available from: 2011-04-26 Created: 2011-04-26 Last updated: 2011-04-28
In thesis
1. Student activity — a way to improve the conceptual understanding of physics in Lao PDR?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Student activity — a way to improve the conceptual understanding of physics in Lao PDR?
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.
Mechanics concept, Group discussion, Problem solving strategy, alternative concepts, context.
National Category
Research subject
didactics of physics
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43355 (URN)978-91-7459-203-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-05-20, Naturvetarhuset, N430, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2011-04-29 Created: 2011-04-27 Last updated: 2011-05-05Bibliographically approved

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Luangrath, PhimphoPettersson, Sune
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