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Conducting experiments and pupils' attitudes towards physics

Sandra Palcich (2018) Conducting experiments and pupils' attitudes towards physics. Diploma thesis.

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    Physics has for most pupils and adults been one of the least favourite subjects at school. Prejudice against physics has been passed down through generations and has consequently created a vicious circle of incomprehension of natural sciences in general. Children can also show negative predispositions towards the subject before they even encounter it. Reasons for the exceptional unpopularity of the subject has been researched by many; one can also find numerous studies trying to differently improve attitudes of elementary and secondary school pupils, as well as university students towards physics. We could look for possibilities for improvement of the current state within new lecturing guidelines. Inquiry-based science education has been proposed as an option. Such lectures are based on pupils’ engagement and they accentuate general educational objectives next to the specific ones. The thesis describes a lecturing activity in a form of inquiry based science education, with which I wanted to improve the pupils’ attitude towards physics. I have designed interesting experiments that may be used during or after lectures, with regard to the subject matter. The research was carried out in two phases. In the first phase, the pupils conducted the experiments as three work sheet-guided homework assignments. The first assignment, “Cotton Sticks Shooting”, is based on the understanding of work, energy and energy conversions. In this experiment we were shooting cotton sticks out of straws. The second assignment, “Confetti”, can be used for a more in-depth understanding of the elastic energy, but addresses other forms of energy and energy transmission between bodies, as well. Here we used a simple tool made out of a balloon and cardboard tube to shoot out paper balls with different masses. The final assignment, “Rolling Plastic Bottles”, assesses the understanding of the concept of the internal energy, in addition to the elements from the first assignment. This time we were dropping downhill empty or half-full plastic bottles containing a fine material. In the second phase of the research I conducted three lectures. The first one was an introductory lesson on pressure. I presented a demonstration research, with which I wanted to familiarise the pupils with the actual process of the inquiry, as well as to acquaint them with what I would be expecting from them in the future lectures. I used a blackboard erasing sponge and weights to assess the factors that would lead to pressure changes. The second lecture resembled a traditional lecture, where we revised what we had learned in the previous lecture and carried out several calculations. For the third lecture I divided the pupils into groups, where each group received a specific research question. The questions were based on the understanding of volume and mass, but were also related to density, which they touched upon later in the following lecture. The pupils took questionnaires prior to my lectures, which I used to determine their attitude towards physics. They took similar questionnaires after the activities, which I later used to compare their answers. An analysis of the results showed that the performed activities were successful. The pupils afterwards stated that physics was more interesting when performing experiments than listening to a traditional physics lesson. It should be noted however that this type of approach is not suitable for every lecture and every learning objective.

    Item Type: Thesis (Diploma thesis)
    Keywords: physics, inquiry-based teaching, interesting experiments, experiments, attitude towards physics
    Number of Pages: 51
    Language of Content: Slovenian
    Mentor / Comentors:
    Mentor / ComentorsIDFunction
    prof. dr. Mojca ČepičMentor
    Link to COBISS: https://plus.si.cobiss.net/opac7/bib/12137801
    Institution: University of Ljubljana
    Department: Faculty of Education
    Item ID: 5335
    Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2018 10:13
    Last Modified: 13 Sep 2018 10:14
    URI: http://pefprints.pef.uni-lj.si/id/eprint/5335

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