Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 10, Issue 2, Article 1 (Dec., 2009)
Determining studentsí attitude towards physics through problem-solving strategy
Physics is considered as the most problematic area within the realm of science, and it traditionally attracts fewer pupils than chemistry and biology. Physics is perceived as a difficult course for students from secondary school to university and also for adults in graduate education. In developed countries, it has been determined that goals of science are never fully realised, that student success in physics is lower than chemistry and biology, that students do not like science lectures and that most have no preference for science, particularly physics (Boylan, 1996; Dieck, 1997; Mattern and Schau, 2002; Neathery, 1991; Rivard and Straw, 2000). It is well known that both high school and college students find physics difficult, and as a scientific discipline it is avoided because of its negative reputation. In a general analysis of the physics situation in schools in England, Osborne, et al. (1998) claimed that the subject of physics and physics courses at school are only taken by students who do well and are not taken as incidental or additional subjects. Among students in England, physics is perceived as an elite discipline, which is viewed as conceptually difficult and only suitable for exceptionally talented and gifted pupils (Koballa, 1988; Osborne, et al., 1998; Woolnough, 1994).
Exploratory research has revealed the reason associated with students’ attitudes towards physics courses and methods of teaching (Craker, 2006; Normah and Salleh, 2006; Hough and Piper, 1982; Long, 1981; Newble, 1998). They have highlighted that they take pleasure in physics course if the students know how to plan and implement the strategies of solution to the questions through teaching methods. Normah and Salleh (2006) indicated that students’ attitude and interests could play a substantial role among pupils studying science. Several studies, such as Ajzen & Fishbein (2000), Wilson, et al. (2000) and Gonen and Basaran (2008), report that students’ positive attitudes towards science highly correlate with their achievement in science.
Achievement, motivation and student interest are influenced by positive and negative attitudes (Miller, 1961). Morse and Morse (1995) found that students with positive attitudes towards science had positive attitudes towards their science teacher, science curriculum and science-classroom climate. Students’ attitude toward science is more likely to influence the success in science courses than success in influencing attitude.
The measurement of students’ attitudes towards physics should take into account their attitudes towards the learning environment (Crawley & Black, 1992). Research has demonstrated that, “the attitudes toward science change with exposure to science, but that the direction of change may be related to the quality of that exposure, the learning environment, and teaching method” (Newble, 1998; Craker, 2006). Armstrong and Impara (1991) determined that fifth and seventh grade students using nature as a curriculum supplement developed more positive attitudes than those who did not. Aiyelaagbe (1998) also reported a more positive attitude of students after exposing them to self-learning strategies. Similar results were obtained in the study conducted by Mattern and Schau (2002) after exposing students to a self-learning device.
If students have negative attitudes towards science, they also do not like physics courses and physics teachers. Based on this premise, numerous studies have been conducted to determine the factors that affect the students’ attitudes in science. From these studies, some basic factors can be listed, including: teaching-learning approaches, the use of the presentation graphics, the type of science courses taken, methods of studying, intelligence, gender, motivation, attitudes, science teachers and their attitudes, self-adequacy, previous learning, cognitive styles of pupils, career interest, socioeconomic levels, influence of parents, social implications of science and achievement (Craker, 2006; Dieck, 1997; Halladyna & Shanghnessy, 1982; Mattern & Schau, 2002; Morrell & Lederman, 1998; Normah & Salleh, 2006; Rivard & Straw, 2000). Studies have revealed the influence of methods of instruction on students’ attitudes towards science (Adesoji, 2008; Altun, 2002; Gok and Sılay, 2008). These studies on attitudes generally explore how attitudes influence success. Attitudes, whether positive or negative, affect learning in science and physics. However, it is well known that a negative attitude towards a certain subject makes learning or future-learning difficult. Therefore, helping students develop positive attitudes towards physics courses should be considered an important step in science education.
Moreover, research has shown that conventional teaching and traditional teaching methods have negative effects on the ability of learning physics for the majority of the students (Erdemir, 2004; Halloun and Hestenes, 1987; Van Heuvelen, 1991). Conclusions from research show that in order to increase the level of attitude and success in physics education, new teaching methods and technology need to be implemented into physics education (Adesoji, 2008; Gonen and Basaran, 2008; Reid & Skryabina, 2002). In this regard, Gok and Sılay (2008) worked on the effects of directive and non-directive problem-solving on attitudes and achievement of students in a developmental science course; the result was that attitude becomes more positive after instruction. Therefore, it is reasonable to claim that the usage of problem-solving strategies is more useful than conventional methods for physics learning. Learning to solve problems is a primary objective in learning science, as problems are an inevitable fact of life (Patton, et al., 1997). By solving problems, a student needs to think and make decisions using appropriate strategies. Students’ success in achieving their goals will encourage them to develop positive attitudes towards physics and other problem-solving activities.
Several teaching methods can be used in physics teaching. Problem solving is one approach. Problem-solving involves knowing what to do in the situation of not knowing what to do. Problem-solving is not only finding the correct answer, but also is an action which covers a wide range of mental abilities. Students should realize what and why they are doing, and know the strengths of these strategies, in order to understand the strategies completely and be able to select appropriate ones (Altun, 2002; Erol, et al., 2006). Numerous teaching methods can be used for problem-solving strategies. Therefore, the investigation of students’ attitudes, behaviors, problem solving knowledge and skills becomes important while solving a problem.
An individual should have new experiences and information to change his or her attitude toward an object. Attitude is a tendency for individuals who organize thoughts, emotions and behaviors towards a psychological object. Human beings are not born with attitudes; they learn them afterwards. Some attitudes are based on people’s own experiences, knowledge and skills, and some are gained from other sources. However, the attitude does not stay the same, it changes in the course of time (Kagıtcıbası, 2004; Erdemir, & Bakırcı, 2009). After all, these new experiences, knowledge and skills should change the beliefs and attitudes of the individual regarding the difficulty of physics by gaining problem solving skills. Problem-solving also involves a student’s willingness to accept challenges. Accepting a challenge in this context means that the student is willing to find appropriate methods to solve a problem. Normah and Salleh (2006) discovered that students who can successfully solve a problem possess good reading skills, have the ability to compare and contrast various cases, can identify important aspects of a problem, can estimate and create analogies and attempt trying various strategies.
The effect of solving problem on a student’s attitude toward science is incredibly important, because problem solving requires patience, persistence, perseverance and willingness to accept risks (Charles et al., 1997; Udousoro, 2002). Many researchers believed that if students were allowed to demonstrate higher cognitive abilities through problem solving, either through a teacher-centered approach or a student-centered approach, their attitudes toward physics might be positively affected. The studies reviewed suggest that there is a relationship between attitude and methods of instruction and between attitude and achievement. Therefore, it is possible to predict the level of achievement from attitude scores. Although many researchers argue that teaching methods have a great impact on students’ attitude to learn a subject, students’ attitudes towards physics have not yet been examined. In this study, the effects of the problem-solving strategy on students’ attitudes were investigated.
The objective of this study was to investigate whether attitudes towards physics would change when students were exposed to both problem solving techniques through a teacher-directed, self- directed and a non-directive problem-solving approach.
In this research, it is hypothesized that there is no significant difference in the attitude of students towards physics after exposing them to teacher-directed and self-directed problem solving techniques.
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