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Students' misconception of forces and motion

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dc.contributor.advisor Strauss, J., Prof. en
dc.contributor.author Masher, George L.
dc.date.accessioned 2010-07-12T07:40:16Z
dc.date.available 2010-07-12T07:40:16Z
dc.date.issued 2000
dc.date.submitted 2000
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/3329
dc.description D.Ed. (Subject Didactics) en
dc.description.abstract No one would deny that the culture in which the world society exists today is best described as one that is scientific, technological and automatic- industrial. It was brought into being by the explosive creation and application of scientific knowledge. It is quite evident that the primary reason why Science has achieved more importance and wider public interest today lies in its uses and the way in which it has changed modern society. In spite of the importance of Science in society, the past few decades have seen a steady decline in the quality of science education and the achievements of students. The reasons for this are many and complex, and extend beyond the scarcity of resources. One reason for students' low achievements can be that students enter the classroom with different beliefs about the nature of the world around them. This implies that meaningful learning in the science classroom presupposes students who enter with beliefs about the world not compatible with science as taught in the classroom. As internal moderator and Chief marker of grade 12 Physical Science paper I (physics) higher grade (HG) and standard grade (SG) in the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), observation of students errors as recorded in statistics and diagnostic analysis reveal misunderstandings in almost all aspects of physics. These misconceptions are found in multiple-choice questions that include calculations, and qualitative answers such as explanations of physics concepts and manipulative skills in problem solving. Statistics reveal that forces and motion in particular, are major areas of concern. Meetings and workshops with grade 12 Physical Science teachers show that these misunderstandings are also deeply embedded in the minds of teachers. In both the multiple-choice questions and explanations there is evidence of a common pattern of errors among students. This finding made me to dig deeper than what is revealed on the surface. Contemporary science education research focuses on misconceptions as shown by Bar, Zinn, and Goldmuntz (1994:149-169) Palmer and Flanagan (1997: 317-331). Cobern (1988:1,2) has shown that students bring with them ideas and values about the natural world that they have formulated on their own or have acquired from previous educational experience. There is an assumption of homogeneity among student's misconceptions even when there is gender, racial, and cultural diversity among students. This assumption has a tendency to keep us from a more comprehensive understanding of variables that lead to science achievement and positive attitudes. The researcher suspects that there are more issues at hand than factors of pedagogy and student intelligence. A child brought up in a warm, secure home develops a confident sense of self and knows the world (i.e., the Other) to be orderly and non-threatening. In comparison the abused child grows up with a low self-esteem, and the child raised in an environment of unexpected trauma could see himself as being powerless living in an unpredictable world. Kearney (1984: 72- 78) showed that the self-other relationship with regard to the individual and society may be one of harmony, while the individual nature relationship is one of dominance. People strive to make sense of the natural world by making use of existing knowledge. However since one person's knowledge differs from another, it is expected that alternative conceptions of reality will occur. Research shows that this is the case from primary school up to university level. According to Cobern (1988:2) the concept of "worldview" refers to a persons fundamental view of reality. Cobern (1988:3) revealed that worldview variations in ethnically diverse classrooms are an important factor in science achieveinent and attitude development among students. Students' "world views" are to a large extent influenced by their environment of learning. In GDE schools, classrooms range from almost homogeneous ones to ethnically diverse ones. In South Africa (SA) we have a multicultural society and it will be interesting to find out how a student's worldview is influenced by the environment of learning. Van Hisse (1988: 498- 502) has made me realize that students' misconceptions were not only confined to grade 12 physics students in the GDE marking centre. Her research showed that while students could correctly memorise new information and reproduce them on tests, they did not believe it applied anywhere else than the strict confines of their classroom. This further aroused my interest to carry out this research and probe student's preconceptions, misconceptions or alternative frameworks so that I can find ways of overcoming them. Forces and motion seem to puzzle high school students for a long time. As a physical science teacher, the researcher observed that students are unable to understand why a car continues moving when the driving force is equal to the opposing force and in many more examples on forces. Another favorite misconception among students is that they are unable to predict correctly what will happen when light and heavy objects are dropped from the same height above the ground in the absence of air friction. Research has shown that a misconception among students is a global problem. An important feature to note is the historical background surrounding schools in South Africa. Schools in South Africa can be divided into two categories viz., advanced and under developed schools. The under developed schools have culminated into a poor culture of teaching and learning. In most of these schools there is a backlog of learning material, laboratories, equipment and even classrooms, which has led to overcrowding. Grade 12 Physical Science Examination results in these schools are pathetic and disquieting. Hence this study endeavors to find out what misconceptions are the underlying causes of the poor grade 12 Physics results and how these misconceptions can be unlearned, replaced with correct ones, so that the grade 12 pass rate improves. To identify the causes of the misconception, attention will also be focused on grade 9. students where forces and motion are part of the curricultim. The idea will be to see if there is a perpetuation of misconceptions from grade to grade. Lippert (1986) showed that students often manipulate physical quantities without necessarily understanding the underlying concepts. There is a growing realization that conventional examinations and tests may not assess genuine student understanding and thus may not be a true reflection of how much a student really knows. Yarroch (1985); Champagne, Gunstone and Klopfer (1983) have shown that investigations reveal that even after seemingly good performance in science courses, many students exhibit gross scientific misconceptions. A study of the Physical Science past examination question papers "Physichem" in South Africa, by Jordan and Jordan (1997), shows that the emphasis in examinations is on manipulative skills and very little attention is given to qualitative questions, which probe students' qualitative answers. The questions related to forces and motions in these examinations typically require students to perform calculations. For example in projectile motion, students are required to manipulate the equation s= ut + V2 ate and find the unknown value. Whereas this method of testing provides an important check that appropriate knowledge has been committed to memory, it is inadequate since it does not help students to interpret what they are manipulating and often encourages rote learning.
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Movement education en
dc.subject Force and energy en
dc.subject Physical sciences study and teaching en
dc.title Students' misconception of forces and motion en
dc.type Thesis(D. Ed) en


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