Physics Viewed As Difficult Subject Education Essay

Chapter 2.0

2.1 Introduction

Nowadays, the researchers are concern about the interest of students in learning Physics, as it is sadly decreasing. As a researcher cum educators, they would not like this to happen. So they try to adapt new style of teaching and make the classroom become more engaging, creative and interacting with the students. The research findings are based on literature review showing that students have difficulties on conceptual understanding in Physics. What are the causes that make students dislike Physics? How is Physics being taught in Brunei Science Education?

Furthermore, this section will also include ways to solve this problem, on how teacher need to change their instructional approach such as improvising teaching style i.e. be more interactive in enhancing students’ better understanding in Physics with the help of information and communication technology (ICT) such as Interactive simulation. It also include a review on how effective is ICT and interactive simulation in Physics education can be in students’ understanding and learning. Likewise, attitude of the students also play vital role in their achievement of that particular subjects. Other studies will also include on how ICT or interactive simulation can influence their attitude towards learning Science will be included.

Simulations have been around practically since the advent of computers, and researchers have been looking at classroom uses of simulations for over twenty years. We want to see the effectiveness of computer simulations for supporting science teaching and learning and highlighting ways that simulations can be best used to do so. (Smetana, 2000)

Computer simulations help the lesson to be more interactive, authentic, and give meaningful learning opportunities possible to students. Learners can observe, explore, recreate, and receive immediate feedback about real objects, phenomena, and processes that would otherwise be too complex, time-consuming, or dangerous. (Smetana, 2000) Even though the computer simulations cannot replace science classroom and laboratory activities completely but they offer various advantage in terms of students creative thinking and inquiry skills. (Sahin, 2006). With the help of computer simulation also, it can help explain the details of what happen in such as particle movements of solid particles where it really hard to visualize in real life. (Blake & Scanlon, 2007)

2.2 Brunei Education Systems: SPN21

In 2009, education system in Brunei had reformed to SPN21 education system where the goal is to provide holistic education for students and to achieve the fullest potential for all in the near future. According to Yussof, (2012), cited in SPN21 Curriculum more balanced, 2012, SPN21 provide quality education for all to prepare the youth for their future adult roles as capable and creative thinking citizens who can contribute to society. In addition to that, Masdi, (2008) also emphasized that Science and technology is crucial in developing a competitive economy and sustaining a country’s development (SPN21 to have new science curricula, 2008)

Harkirat, (2006) stated that the way the teacher teach science in Brunei are mostly traditional method i.e. chalk and talk. Moreover, the teachers felt advantageous in teaching this way as this can minimise the classroom discipline as the students are busy copying notes from the white board. As a results, post achievement of this type of teaching method shows very little improvement. (Dhindsa, 2006) Studies made by Pengiran Jadid, (2007) found out that 185 teachers’ teaching style in secondary school turned out to be fairly traditional i.e. they taught the students with auditory and visual method however some of the students would not preferred this method. (Boström*, 2011).

In SPN21 education curriculum, teaching methods need to be change to achieve with the goals. Rahman, (2011) stated that one of the teachers that join Leadership in Educational Programme (LEP) saying that school teachers were told to try to employ new and innovative methods of teaching to help the pupils cope with the implementation of the 21st Century National Education System (SPN21). This encouraged the student to carry out their most suitable or preferred style of learning such as researching on the Internet. This will lessen the student’s dependency on the educators while they learn at their own comfortable pace. (Jong, 2011)

2.3 Physics viewed as difficult subject

According Abdul Qadeer Soomro, (2011) students find Physics as one of the problematic areas within the field of science. Reason for this is that teachers taught Physics traditional instruction. This magnetizes fewer learners than other field of science subjects. William (2003), state that the major general reasons for finding Physics uninteresting are that it is seen as difficult and irrelevant especially female students.

The declining number of students choosing to take Physics during their further studies continues to be a cause for concern for scientific and educational communities around the world. (Defty, 2006) Students find Physics difficult as they have to contend with different representations such as experiments, formulas and calculations, graphs and conceptual explanation at the same time. According to Redish (1994), he explains why students describe Physics as difficult: Physics as a discipline requires learners to employ a variety of methods of understanding and to rephrase from one to the other, dealing with tables of numbers, graphs, equations, diagrams and maps. Physics also requires the ability to use algebra and geometry which relate to mathematics subjects. This makes learning Physics particularly difficult for many students especially those students who do not like to problem solving.

Muhall, et al, (2001) also added that especially in electricity and magnetism as teacher find it difficult to deliver this lesson as they hardly show what really going on inside a circuit especially. Electricity is a particular problem, as it involves extremely complex and highly abstract concepts and thus totally dependent on models so that students could easily visualize and understand the concepts. In order to do these, ICT can help teacher in explaining the difficult abstract.

2.4 ICT in Physics Education

The rapid change in development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has made significant impact in transforming many aspects especially education in general and higher education in particular. It is also significantly importance for the teachers to understand the skills and knowledge required in using ICT particularly in Physics education. ICT change teachers’ role from spoon feeding the information to students to facilitate students to explore new information. (Lubis, et al 2011) In order to ensure that students are competent in the area of learning technologies, teachers tend to change their attitude and introduce new ICT tools and technologies into their Physics classes. (Jarosievitz, n.d.)

Besides that, studies done by Tasouris, (2009), teachers in Cyprus thinks that with the help of ICT in Physics education students can explore in-depths the difficult concepts, motivate students and enhance their scientific understanding by exploring the animated pictures in interactive simulation for instance. ICT also enhanced active learning among the students. They can work on real life problems in depths and most importantly making learning less abstract. With ICT also encourage collaborative learning in terms of interaction and cooperation among teachers and students. Unlike static-text and print based text books, with ICT students can actually see what actually happens in certain phenomena for example movement of static charges in materials.

Quite number of studies has stated that technology-rich learning environment has a positive impact on student learning. Studies conducted by Fraser, B & Aldridge, J, (2003) which investigating whether outcomes, focused and ICT rich learning environment promote student achievement, attitudes towards subject, attitudes to use of ICT and academic efficacy. They found out that certainly technology-rich learning environment has a positive and significant effect on student learning, attitudes towards subject, attitudes to computer use and academic efficacy.

With that technology assisted instruction really helps students to develop a conceptual understanding of abstract representation of physical science as it emphasizes simulation, visualisation, animation, etc. Hence, to enhance students’ deeper mental imagery (Fisher, D, 2003)

2.5 Effective instructional approaches: Traditional Teaching Style vs. Interactive Simulation

Effective teaching must include two major component i.e. teacher sending out information, and students receive and exchange feedback. Major problem nowadays is teachers still comfortable of using chalk and talk as their instructional approach. This is because they do not have time as they were pressured to finish up syllabus and proceed quickly to drilling revision. Brunei education system is mostly assessment based. This influenced the teacher to just teach and rush to complete the syllabus content without even acknowledge whether the students actually grasp the concept.

To avoid this, ICT is introduced as one of the teaching tools that might help students in their learning and made teachers’ life easier in terms of explaining difficult concept in Physics particularly. One of the ICT tools that happen to be really helping teacher explanation better is interactive simulation. Teacher can actually use interactive simulation in online site for instance Phet.

Phet stands for Physics education technology, where the teachers from other country come up with interactive simulation in each subject and share to other teacher where they can download it and adapt it to the classroom. The suite includes over 50 research-based simulations that span the curriculum of introductory Physics as well as sample topics from advanced Physics and chemistry. (Perkins, et al., 2006) The interactive simulation are free and does not require to use internet services. This simulations are designed to be highly interactive, engaging and make open learning environment in the classroom that provided animated feedback to the students as well. This simulation provide teacher and students higly visual, dynamic representations of Physics concepts. Furthermore, the simulations seek to build explicit bridges between students’ everyday understanding of the worl and the underlying physical principles. For example in electrostatic, using simulation as the model to explain the static charges really behave if induction or conduction charging apply to the material etc.

Alessi & Trollip S.R., (1991) defined simulation in education as a powerful technique that gave students some aspect of the world by replicating or imitating it. The simulations also allow students to interact with it in a similar manner to the way they would react in real situations. Students also play an authentic role carrying out complex tasks with the simulations.

Simulation incorporate an engaging and interactive approach in the classroom as it is more towards student centred learning. This allows the student to explore, be curious and generate critical thinking. It also helps developing in constructivism as students learn by building on their prior understanding through a series of explorations. This also ignites the students’ interest in finding out new things in certain topics. Moreover, this help teacher to explain the microscopic with the designed model available. Simulation can be used not only in classroom but also in laboratory. Where teachers can use it to set up the experiments that are took time to set up, or even the practical that is very dangerous to do. (Noah Finkelstein, 2006)

Figure 1 and figure 2 below are examples of interactive simulation that can be used in the classroom.

Figure 1 : Simulation on Kinematics and Energy

Figure 2 : Simulation on Force applied

According to Bozkurt & Ilik, (2010) it has been seen that the groups who study with computer simulations are more successful than those who study with traditional methods. In addition, the analysis that has been made regarding beliefs of the groups shows that the teaching methods play a role on students’ beliefs.

With the help of a powerful simulation many of Physics subjects which are difficult to teach and deliver can be made simpler and clearer according to Zacharia & Anderson, (2003). In Shirley Pasion Caday research, the study reveals that there is a significant difference between the mean pre-test scores and mean post-tests scores of the experimental group in the test on science concepts. She also concluded that computer simulation experiment is an effective tool to capture the interest of students toward the learning of Physics as a subject. (Caday, 2004)

Researchers studying the use of simulations in the classroom have reported positive findings overall. Studies done by Kulik, (2002) computer simulations can be effective in developing content knowledge and process skills, as well as helping promoting inquiry and conceptual change. It also helps student gained understanding and achievement subject areas, for instance Physics. According to Ajmian & Fatim (2007) study, the understanding percentage in the students’ learning using multimedia oriented software is much higher, and the results are encouraging. With interactive simulation it can improve students’ visualization and especially in helping students to see structure in phenomena and processes that are traditionally ‘invisible’ to students i.e. a process that cannot be seen by naked eye ‘small process’ i.e. movement of protons or even ‘big process’ i.e. movement of earth as stated by Lindgren & Schwartz, (2009). On top of that, with the help of interactive simulation it can correct students’ misconception in Physics. However, interactive simulation still cannot replace real laboratories as students really need the science skill process (psychomotor domain) in doing the experiments. However, the use of interactive simulation gives students the ideas of what to expect in real laboratory experiments hence, Choi & Genarro, (1987) state that simulations work best and effective if the experiments require cognitive interaction.

2.6 Students’ attitudes and achievement towards learning Physics

Students’ attitude is likely to play vital role in any satisfactory explanation of their performance in schools which is suggested by Schunk & Hanson, (1985). According to Hendrickson, (1997), attitudes are the best predictor for estimation of students’ success. One study had been done in Turkey where they indicate that strategy instruction can influenced the attitude towards learning Physics. In Mehmet, (2009) study, he provides some evidence which indicates the correlation of positive-ness of students’ attitudes towards science with instructional strategy in Physics. As long as teacher avoided traditional approach in their teaching, this will increase students’ interest and more positive towards the subject. It is realized that Physics is not a popular subject among the students and is regarded as difficult. If the teacher taught in traditional teaching style, students are prone to memorize the formulas for exams since they do not follow the Physics concepts in the classroom. Therefore, traditional Physics classes often result in student failures and negative attitudes towards the subject. (Mehmet Sahin, 2009)

Ogunlele, W (1993) in his studies also stated that many students developed negative attitudes towards Physics learning as a result of the fact that teachers are unable to satisfy their aspiration or goals or even their curiosity in Physics topics. Another interesting study done by Onyinye & Okereke, (2012) their research showed that students negative attitude towards Physics were due to, teachers not allowing students to perform practical individually because of insufficient equipment in the laboratories in other words not enough hands-on experience. Students felt that they have lack motivation for class engagement.(Erylmaz, 2011). It is well known that negative attitude towards a certain subject makes learning or future-learning of the students difficult. Therefore, Guzel, (2004) emphasized that developing students’ positive attitudes towards science lessons is the most important purpose of science education.

Most researchers agreed on how attitude of students towards certain subject might influence their later performance or achievement in their learning. The more negative students’ view or interest towards the subject, it will cause students not to perform better in their study. Fraser, B & Aldridge, J, (2003) reveal that student academic achievement is positively correlated to the students’ perceptions of the learning environment.

2.7 Summary

The literature review suggested that, with the help of ICT and interactive simulation, these can help to improve Science education. In which it can help teacher to explain abstract things better. Students will understand more, clear out misconception and avoid rote learning eventually. Teacher also bear in mind that to incorporate uses of ICT in students learning, not just using ICT in explaining but letting the students use the ICT in order to explore new things and being interactive in the classroom. This will make the classroom more to students centred. In the future, hopefully with the appropriate and constant use of ICT and interactive simulation in schools might develop students with rich ICT skills in order to fulfil country’s vision in 2035.

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