The Study of Concepts, Growth and Attainment in School Science

Mughol, Abdul Rahman N (1977) The Study of Concepts, Growth and Attainment in School Science. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The decades of the fifties and the sixties witnessed an unparalleled growth in the development of new curricula. Because of this, syllabuses in physics contained not only too much content but also some of it was conceptually difficult for the stage of the development of the children being taught. Difficulty in understanding physics was reported by many authorities. One of them was Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board. This agency, from 1972 till now, in its annual reports, has been mentioning this factor of difficulty, encountered by the pupils in physics and has pointed out certain topics and concepts which were proving troublesome and were not properly understood by many pupils even at the higher levels of study. Many science educationists drew attention to another important factor which was creating difficulty and that was 'age' at which the topics and concepts were being taught. These views and reports indicated the need to study the difficulty and growth of topics and concepts in physics. Up to this time, nothing was reported regarding the pupils' views about this study. It was thought that the views and information given by the pupils would be useful and as important as the views given by various authorities and agencies. The study followed here is empirical in nature and was planned to find out about: (i) difficult topics and concepts in the course, (ii) the age level at which these become clear to the pupils, (iii) the growth of some of the concepts and (iv) the most appropriate order for the presentation of some topics. The survey of the literature was made at the beginning of the investigation. In this it was found that not such work of this nature had been done in this field in Britain before or after implementation of new syllabuses in physics which came into force in the late sixties. To fulfil the first three objectives of the research, the work was carried out for a period of more than two years and in different educational institutions and various classes. The beginning of the study was made with the general survey of difficult topics and concepts at various levels. This unit of work was applied in two consecutive years with the objectives to find out the topics and concepts which were: (i) understood first time or with a little effort, (ii) difficult but were mastered after considerable efforts, (iii) not clear, never understood and so needed to be taught again and, (iv) not covered by pupils in their course. For achieving these objectives, the work in first year consisted of a questionnaire having 41 items. This was applied to first year university students and pupils of 'H' and 'O' grades in five schools. In second year, a modified questionnaire having 23 items and a test were prepared for subjective and objective assessments. This material was also applied in the same way. To find out about (i) the age level at which some of the concepts become clear and (ii) the growth of these concepts, three concepts - density, heat and temperature and, electrical resistance were selected, one from each of the main areas of the study, mentioned above. Density was selected to study the 'natural' development of the concept; heat and temperature for confusion in normal everyday language usage and electrical resistance for it does not come often into normal use or conversation. The experimental techniques for investigating these concepts were similar although they differed considerably in detail. For each concept, the material prepared consisted of (i) a working net called a 'path diagram', (ii) an interview schedule and (iii) a diagnostic test. This material was also applied over two years in four schools. For the concept of density, the interview was conducted in SI to SIII classes and the test was applied to SI to SV classes. For the concepts of heat and temperature, and resistance, the interviews were conducted in SII to SIV classes and the tests were applied to SII to SV classes. There are two main features of the experimental technique. (i) The tests were prepared on the basis of the interview information and were validated against the interview results and (ii) new types of diagnostic tests were prepared and novel ideas were introduced in the test construction. The general survey of the syllabus revealed that there were certain topics and concepts which were difficult and were proving troublesome and, the troubles were carried by the pupils into their undergraduate careers. The study of the selected concepts revealed that the concept of density became clear to the pupils at the age of about 15 years and, in third year classes, there was fast growth of the concept. At the age of about 16 years, the concepts of heat and temperature were becoming clear to the pupils and the concepts were growing fast in fourth year classes. The concept of resistance became clear to half of the pupils at the age of about 17 years and the growth rate started improving in fifth year classes. The work embodied in this entire investigation is now actively being considered by the Consultative Committee on the Curriculum in its planning of the syllabuses for the 1980s.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Science education
Date of Award: 1977
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1977-78758
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 14:56
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 14:56

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