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Students Discussing Physics in Small Groups at University level in Lao PDR.
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 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 [en]
End-of-chapter problem, group discussion, Problem solving strategy.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43301OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-43301DiVA: diva2:412925
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.
Keyword
Mechanics concept, Group discussion, Problem solving strategy, alternative concepts, context.
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of physics
Identifiers
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)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-04-29 Created: 2011-04-27 Last updated: 2011-05-05Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
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  • Other style
More styles
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  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
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  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
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Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf