Graduate School of Education
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Research Proposal
EFFECTS OF BIOLOGY-INFUSED DEMONSTRATIONS ON ACHIEVEMENT AND ATTITUDES IN JUNIOR
Charles CHEW Ming Kheng
B.Sc.(Hons), Post-Grad Dip.Ed. (Credit), M.Ed.(Hons)
National Institute of Education
Nanyang Technological University
1 Nanyang Walk, Singapore 637616
Dr. Elaine Chapman (Principal Supervisor)
Professor Tom O‟Donoghue (Co-Supervisor)
CONTENTS 2 ABSTRACT 3 INTRODUCTION 4 CONSTRUCTIVISM: THE NEW ORTHODOXY OF SCIENCE TEACHING? 5 POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF PHYSICS DEMONSTRATIONS 6 THE PREDICT-OBSERVE-EXPLAIN APPROACH 7 WHY USE BIOLOGY EXAMPLES IN PHYSICS DEMONSTRATIONS? 8 STUDY AIMS 9 RESEARCH QUESTIONS 10 METHOD 11 RESEARCH APPROACH 11 PARTICIPANTS 12 RESEARCH DESIGN 13 INSTRUMENTS 15
Physics Achievement 15
General Attitudes Towards Physics 16
Specific Affective Outcomes 17 PROCEDURES 17 DATA ANALYSIS 18
Cognitive Outcomes 18
Affective Outcomes 19 CONSENT AND PARTICIPANTS‟ PROTECTION 20 SIGNIFICANCE 20 MAJOR SCHOLARS IN THE FIELD 21 TIMELINE 21 FACILITIES AND ESTIMATED COSTS 22 FACILITIES 22 ESTIMATED COSTS 22 REFERENCES 22 APPENDICES 27 APPENDIX A: BLUEPRINTS OF INNOVATIVE PHYSICS DEMONSTRATIONS 28 APPENDIX B: DATA COLLECTION QUESTIONS 49 APPENDIX C: PHYSICS ACHIEVEMENT TESTS (PATS) 50 APPENDIX D: TEST OF PHYSICS-RELATED ATTITUDES (TORPA) 85 APPENDIX E: AFFECTIVE OUTCOMES SCALE (AOS) 86
This research will examine the effects of biology-infused physics demonstrations on the achievement and attitudes of junior college (Year 11 and 12) students in Singapore. Within each of two colleges, 120 participants (60 males and 60 females X 60 high and 60 low ability) will be assigned randomly into control and experimental groups (total n = 240). In both
conditions, students will study two physics units under the constructivist teaching approach of Predict-Observe-Explain (POE). In the experimental group, however, biology-infused physics demonstrations will be used, whilst in the control group, more traditional demonstrations will be use. After two weeks of intensive physics demonstrations as enrichment lessons, these groups will be compared to examine the relative impact of these two approaches on physics achievement and attitudes. Gender and ability level will also be included in the model to determine whether the effects are consistent across these factors.
The outcomes of these two conditions will be assessed using three instruments: a Physics Achievement Test (PAT), a Physics Attitudes Survey (PAS), and an Affective Outcomes Scale (AOS). For data analysis, the statistical methods of Pearson r and Rasch will be used
for the PAT, while factor analysis and MANCOVA will be used for the PAS and AOS.
MANCOVA with pretest scores as covariates and Effect Sizes will also be used to study the main effects and interaction effects of the independent variables. This research study will be highly significant in that the findings may have national and international implications for the enhancement of physics education. This teaching-learning approach in infusing biology into physics demonstrations is likely to be the first of its kind in the Singapore context and possibly beyond. This research is also particularly timely, in light of the diminishing enrolments and interest of females in high school physics courses, as well as the reduced levels of physics achievement and attitudes‟ of females in many countries.
In Singapore, several important educational initiatives have been introduced in recent years that have direct implications for science education. These include:
(i) the promotion of interdisciplinary project work in 1999 - this initiative was designed
to foster qualities such as curiosity, creativity and enterprise; nurture critical skills
for the information age; cultivate habits of self-directed enquiry, and; encourage
students to explore the inter-relationships between subject-specific knowledge
(Ministry of Education, 1999/2000),
(ii) the reform of life sciences in 2001 - this was done through a minor revision of
syllabus and the production of resource books for primary, secondary and junior
colleges which included life sciences activities. This reform was designed to equip
students with the knowledge and skills for the growth area of life sciences in the real
(iii) the introduction of innovation and enterprise in 2003 – this initiatve aimed to prepare
students for an innovation-driven future by equipping them with a key set of life
skills, including a mindset and outlook of creativity, initiative and self-reliance,
through the use of specific related learning activities.
Particular interest has been taken recently in the subject area of physics, which is typically characterized by problems of poor student enrolment. Traditionally, physics has been viewed by students as an abstract, „elitist‟ subject area, and tends not to be preferred by lower-achieving science students (Stepans, 1991). Research has also suggested significant gender differences in preferences for physics at the secondary level. For example, in a study to explore the attitudes and perceptions of Scottish girls and boys towards physics over the age range of 10-18 years old, Reid and Skryabina (2003) reported that twice as many boys as girls were attracted to choose physics at the third year of the secondary school. Harding and Parker (1995) also reported that women are poorly represented in areas of employment that require science-related qualifications, except medicine. For example, in physics courses and examinations at school in England and Wales, girls are under-represented by factors of approximately 1:5 at GSE level, 1:3 at O level and 1:4 at A level. This underrepresentation of girls is then propagated into physics undergraduate courses (1:8), postgraduate courses (1:10) and professional activity as a physicist (1:20).
Haussler & Hoffmann (2002) cited an international survey by Gardner (1985, 1998) that “many studies repeatedly indicate that students‟ interest in physics declines worldwide during Secondary Level 1 and that girls are less interested in physics than boys”. In the case of Germany, the enrolment of female students for physics achievement courses at upper secondary level fell to about 10% (Haussler & Hoffmann, 2002). In this intervention study involving six junior high schools in Germany, the following four different educational measures on intervention were used:
， adapting physics curriculum to interests of girls;
， training teachers in supporting girls to develop positive self-concept; ， splitting classes in half every second lesson and
， teaching girls and boys separately every second lesson.
Studies have also shown that gender differences in attitudes towards science may be discipline-specific. For example, results of the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Benchmarking Study indicated significantly greater percentages of boys than girls with positive attitudes towards physics. The reverse, however, was true for the subject area of biology. Studies that have demonstrated relationships between poor engagement and failures to develop basic academic skills (e.g., Mathewson, 1994) highlight the potential significance of such attitudinal problems for physics as a subject area.
CONSTRUCTIVISM: THE NEW ORTHODOXY OF SCIENCE TEACHING?
Many recent efforts to improve student engagement in secondary level science classrooms have been based on applications of constructivist learning principles. Constructivism has
become the „buzz word of the day‟ in science education. Since the mid-1980s,
constructivism has become an increasingly popular theory of knowledge in the fields of both Mathematics and Science education (Chapman, 2003). As a theory of knowledge, constructivism is founded on the premise that by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world in which we live. Research interest in constructivist teaching practices has generated a significant body of empirical data that has contributed to improving teachers‟ knowledge and understanding of difficulties in the learning of science. The widespread acceptance of constructivism in many parts of the world led Mathews (1993) to label it as “the new orthodoxy of science teaching”.
Greer, Hudson, and Wiersma (1999, p.2) argued that, in general, constructivist teaching practices:
； provide learning experiences such as accessing students‟ prior knowledge, utilizing
reflective and relational thinking, and developing big ideas,
； create and capitalize on opportunities for student disequilibrium, misconceptions,
and errors so that students are forced to query meaning, and
； provide opportunities for students to verbally interact with others in the pursuit of
understanding and growth, enabling students to develop and support their own
points of view rather than merely adopt the point of view of others, such as that of
the teacher and the text/materials.
POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF PHYSICS DEMONSTRATIONS
Recent increases of interest in the use of physics demonstrations have been prompted, at least in part, by the widespread adoption of constructivist learning approaches across many areas and levels of education. Albert Einstein once asserted that “in the matter of physics,
the first lessons should contain nothing but what is experimental and interesting to see. A pretty experiment is in itself often more valuable than twenty formulae extracted from our minds” (cited in Moszkowski, 1970). Clifford and Thomas (1998), who acted as editors of The Physics Teacher for many years, noted further in their book Teaching Introductory
The demonstration experiment is one of the most powerful teaching tools that a physics teacher can
call on. In a demonstration, an individual, usually the teacher handles objects in a planned way to
illustrate or classify the physics to be taught... Teachers often find that returning alumni may say, “I
remember when you showed us…,” but seldom or never reminisce about a lecture or a film. (p.8).
A search of issues from The Physics Teacher (http://scitation.aip.org/tpt/) between 1975 to
2004 shows that while several articles have been published on the design and use of physics demonstration experiments as teaching aids, few have examined the effects of these on achievement or affective outcomes in physics. Congruent with the ancient adage “seeing is
believing” (Swartz & Miner, 1998), an effective physics lecture demonstration may foster students‟ interest in the topic, as well as slowing the pace of teaching and affording students
needed time to organise and digest the ideas presented to them.
Sund and Trowbridge (1973) proposed five types of demonstrations: teacher led (the
teacher prepares and gives the demonstration), teacher-student led (a student assists the
teacher in preparing and presenting the demonstration), student group led (the teacher acts
as an evaluator of the demonstation), individual student led (the demonstration is given by a
high-status student), and guest led (other science teachers or professional scientists are
called in to present the demonstration).
Besides their potential motivational advantages, demonstrations may promote a scaffolding dimension in the comprehension and acquisition of abstract physics principles. Physics demonstrations can also promote skills in the use of essential equipment and direct/focus the thinking process by highlighting key concepts effectively.
Although very little research has been conducted on the efficacy of demonstrations on physics achievement, those that have been done generally indicate positive effects. In one recent example, Ciske (2002) examined the effects of student-led demonstrations in a high school physics class in Michigan. The nineteen students in the class were divided into two groups, one group who prepared and performed the physics demonstrations on eleven physics topics and one group who did not prepare and perform but observed the demonstrations. The results showed that the group who prepared and presented the demonstrations performed better on the post-test than the observers.
THE PREDICT-OBSERVE-EXPLAIN APPROACH
One useful structured constructivist teaching strategy which has direct relevance to the use of physics demonstrations is the Predict-Observe-Explain instructional approach (White & Gunstone, 1992). This approach incorporates elements of both teacher-centred and student-centred instruction. Predict-Observe-Explain [POE] (White & Gunstone, 1992) is a powerful strategy to conduct minds-on inquiry based demonstrations. In this approach, the teacher attempts to be a significant part of the learner‟s lived experience. This is achieved through facilitating students‟ reconstruction of their own knowledge in inquiry-based
lessons by promoting interactions with objects in the environment, and engaging students in higher-level thinking and problem solving (Crawford, 2000).
POE includes the following five stages:
(i) teachers pose a problem for the students to predict the outcome of a
demonstration before it is carried out;
(ii) teachers ask students (in pairs) to make their personal predictions;
(iii) students compare their predictions with each other before the conduct of the
(iv) students observe the demonstration as it is being carried out;
(v) students participate in a discussion facilitated by the teacher for purpose of
teaching the correct scientific concepts and remediate any misconceptions.
Watts and Jofili (1998) cited Fox‟s (1983) seven metaphors of a constructivist teacher which can be achieved through the constructivist POE instruction:
; Theatrical director – directs and orchestrates learners‟ thinking,
; Tour guide – guides and chaperones learners,
; Scaffolder – provides structure and supports,
; Provocateur – challenges and struggles with the learner,
; Negotiator – acts as a broker between learner and curriculum,
; Committee chair – reconciles, organizes and manages goals and agendas, and
; Modeller – shapes and moulds learners‟ knowledge.
WHY USE BIOLOGY EXAMPLES IN PHYSICS DEMONSTRATIONS?
Though the use of demonstrations at the junior college level in Singapore is already being practiced, these tend to be subject-specific, being largely restricted to physics, chemistry, or biology, with hardly any interdisciplinary demonstrations. One strategy that has some
promise for meeting the goals of current educational initiatives within Singapore in the area of physics education is the infusion of biology into physics demonstrations.There are several
reasons why infusing biology examples into physics demonstrations may prove to be an effective way of improving both performance and affective outcomes.
First, as indicated, one of the major goals of promoting interdisciplinary project work in science is to encourage students to explore the inter-relationships between subject-specific knowledge (Ministry of Education, 1999/2000). Scientific theories and models and
students‟ personal theories and models often conflict sharply with one another. The students‟ personal theories and models may incorporate many “misconceptions” about the
way the world works. They are referred to as “misconceptions” or “preconceptions” (Tao, Mak and Chung, 1986). Glynn, Yeany and Britton (1991) noted that students‟ personal theories and models often work quite well in everyday life. It is only in science classrooms or laboratories that teachers can demonstrate the shortcomings of these misconceptions. Futther, however, students tend to „sectionalise‟ their personal theories and models in order to protect them from the contractions they observe in the classroom. Reluctant to give up their preconceptions or even misconceptions, students may prefer to believe that some theories work fine in some contexts, but not in others. Drawing links between different discipline areas in science may be efficient, because it forces students to see that the principles introduced hold across different areas of application.
Second, while physics has been traditionally viewed as a somewhat „elitist‟ subject area, biology has not. The gender differences in preferences for science at the secondary level also vary significantly with discipline area. Based on the 1999 TIMSS outcomes, higher percentages of boys demonstrate positive attitudes towards physics, while in biology, the reverse is true. It is possible that by infusing biology into physics demonstrations, and thus associating the two discipline areas, some of the differences previously seen in preferences for physics across ability levels and gender may be reduced.
In general, there is a dearth of research on the efficacy of using demonstrations in the subject area of physics. No research has been located which evaluates the efficacy of infusing examples from other areas such as biology within such demonstrations.
The major goal of this study was to design, develop, and evaluate an innovative teaching-learning approach based on physics demonstrations that infuse biology examples. This approach was designed to improve thinking skills by incorporating the major educational initiatives of innovation, information technology and interdisciplinary project work. The teacher-led physics demonstrations examined in this study are constructed using commonly available materials and/or equipment (including dataloggers) in the schools. The
blueprints of these innovative demonstrations may, therefore, serve as useful educational resources for teachers to replicate within interdisciplinary projects.
The infusion of biology into physics demonstrations refers to the use of biological examples (eg. the human arm) instead of the usual non-biological examples (eg. a seesaw) to illustrate the same physics principles (eg. the principle of moments). In the study, the
biology-infused approach will be compared with one that uses only the traditional non-biological examples. The two types of demonstrations will differ only with respect to whether they are infused with biology. Appendix A shows the blueprints (i.e., topic, syllabus outcome and pedagogical design) of four pairs of innovative physics demonstrations with and without the infusion of biology. These have been designed and are currently under further development by the researcher.
Of special interest in the study will be whether the impact of biology-infusion on achievement and attitudes differs across males and females. Increasing female students‟
physics achievement and attitudes is of particular concern in high schools, in light of research that has indicated reduced levels of interest and enrolments in this subject area (Haussler & Hoffmann, 2002). With the infusion of biology into physics demonstrations, this study will also further examine the performance and attitudinal differences reported previously for males and females in secondary level physics classes (e.g., Gardner, 1985, 1998; Haussler & Hoffmann, 2002).
The primary reearch question to be addressed in the study is: What are the effects of infusing biology examples into physics demonstrations that are based on a constructivist teaching approach? Specific research questions are listed below (corresponding data collection questions are shown in Appendix B):
(1) What are the effects of using such demonstrations on physics achievement? (2) What are the effects of using such demonstrations on physics attitudes? (3) Do the effects of using such demonstrations on achievement and attitudes differ across
males and females?
(4) Do the effects of using such demonstrations on achievement and attitudes differ across