Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 8, Issue 1, Article 12 (June, 2007)
SITI HENDON Sheikh Abdullah & KHALIJAH Mohd Salleh
Science teaching for enlightenment: A holistic approach in developing a teacher's guide for best practices to teach at secondary level

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The Model

Figure 2 gives the model for holistic approach to best practices. There are three important elements in the model; the teacher, the student and the content. HOBP Model considers that both teacher and the students are participants of the teaching learning process. The teacher characteristics are the content knowledge and the pedagogical knowledge while the student characteristics are preconceptions, cognition of information management and the psycho-emotional state of the students. It is communication that determines the effectiveness of the teaching learning process. This in turn is determined by the teaching approaches and the feedback between students and teachers. However there are two other factors that affect the teaching learning process. These are the content as prescribed by the syllabus and the resource materials.

Figure 2. HOBP model

(i)     Student Factor

We belief that three student’s factors need to be considered for the development of a model and hence guide, holistically. They are the misconceptions, cognitive aspect and the psycho emotional aspect of the students.


There are two kinds of misconceptions among school children. First is the misconception that occurs long before a concept is being taught. Osborne and Bell (1983) mentioned that students already have explanations for things that occur around them before any formal instruction. We could therefore expect five different  outcomes in response to the new view supplied by the teacher. These are: (1) the view is simply rejected, (2) the new view is misinterpreted to fit in with, or even support the student’s present views, (3) the new view is accepted but in isolation from present ideas, (4) the new view is accepted but leads to confusion and, (5) the new view is accepted and forms a coherent view of the world. Secondly, there is also evidence that the way the topic is being taught can contribute to tenacious misconceptions (Taber, 2003). Therefore, it would be helpful for teachers to know their students’ conceptions prior instruction so that teachers can adopt appropriate strategies during formal teaching. However the teaching approach that is finally adopted would depend on the teacher’s awareness and understanding of their students’ preconceptions. These preconceptions might differ from one student to another. Therefore, different teaching approaches are required for different topics that have recurring common misconceptions among the students.


The cognitive goal of science education is to ensure that students understand the basic concepts and ideas found in the content of a given discipline. Students are also expected to develop cognitive and practical skills that enable them to apply whatever they have learnt to explain phenomena that happen around them and to solve problems. Unfortunately research findings have shown that such desired goals have not been achieved among a larger proportion of the student population.  It is believed that this could be attributed to a teaching learning operation that is too examination oriented which influenced the school to work towards preparing students to pass examinations, often enough neglecting the higher objectives of education; the development of the cognitive critical thinking skills and the affective domain. Subsequently, institutions of higher learning that these students go to after completing their secondary education find them lacking in the cognitive and the higher order thinking skills required to self direct their learning and to manage the relevant information in their respective disciplines.


The third element to be considered is the psycho-emotional aspect. The underlying assumption here is that the students’ emotional states affect their readiness and acceptance to learn. Therefore knowledge cannot be forced onto a student if he himself is not ready to do so. It is the student’s state of mind that will make him decide if he is going to learn what is being taught by the teacher that day. There are factors that affect the psycho emotional state of the students hence their readiness to learn. These include the teacher student relationship, student-student relationship and approaches that can stimulate and satisfy the different needs of the students. When the teaching–learning activities are stimulating, satisfying and encourage students’ participation, students are bound to be more interested in what they learn.

A holistic approach to teaching and learning process therefore means that these factors are being incorporated into the teaching and learning practices in the classroom. The challenge is how to ensure that this can be done successfully. Incorporating these three factors during teaching would hopefully revoke the apparently continued  perception that physics learning is dry, difficult and dull. Actually when these three words are analyzed, it is found that each word refers to a different aspect of the teaching learning process. Dry can be associated with the way the subject matter has been presented, which many students felt were not related to everyday examples. Difficult refers to the student’s perception regarding the meaning of what they are supposed to study or to learn. The terms used particularly the technical ones, are used in the discipline that students are not familiar with. They are not meaningful when presented to them so this affects their understanding and hence learning of the subject matter. Dull refers to the element of feeling. This is psycho emotional in tone and negative in nature. Thus to overcome the dry, difficult and dull nature of physics teaching and learning, the teachers  need to look not just at the curriculum content of what is to be learnt by the students but also the method of the delivery of the subject matter. Undeniably this is related to the communication approach and style during the teaching learning process. 

(ii)    Teacher Factor

Content knowledge

A teacher himself is an important tool for teaching. Teachers should be well equipped with the content knowledge to be able to pass the knowledge effectively to their students. This is because students need their teachers’ guidance to bring them to a higher learning development (Vygotsky, 1930). Therefore, teachers should be prepared with content knowledge to be able to facilitate their students into understanding the concepts and apply what they have learnt into real life situations and solve problems.

Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)

Undeniably there are teachers who have been successful in teaching physics for students with different abilities. It would not be too presumptuous to assume that these teachers must have adopted teaching learning approaches that best meet the various cognitive and psycho-emotional needs of their students. Teachers’ awareness of students’ difficulties in the topic and students’ different background could help teachers prepare lessons that can bring about optimum learning. They must also have communicated in a manner that promotes interest, understanding and effective learning. It would not be surprising that these teachers could have also used teaching learning tools that aid effective learning.

(iii)   Teaching Approaches

Teachers have to make the necessary interventions if their students’ misconceptions are to be corrected. Teachers need to provide their students with a range of experiences so that they are able to make amendments, refine or abandon their previous misconceptions in favor of the scientific understanding (Edgar, 2000). Therefore holistic best teaching practices would integrate several teaching approaches to teaching. These include inquiry, constructivism, ICT, cooperative and contextual learning. Though these approaches are different from one another they do not contradict but instead complement each other in the construction of knowledge by the students. These approaches are designed to bridge the gaps found along some particulars surrounding the concepts taught and should be communicated in a manner that promotes effective learning.

Contra to physics being dull, Williams (2003) found that the two most predominant reasons that make students find physics interesting are the content and the practical nature of the subjects.  Students find that certain topics are more interesting than others if they have relevance to them. For some students it is their perception of physics itself that results in the development of their negative attitude to the subject.   This therefore means that best practices to physics teaching should include approaches that overcome the raised issues and problems

The best teaching practices that are based on a holistic approach to teaching will have to be multidimensional. This therefore means that the teaching and learning of science, in particular physics will not just focus on the content but also other factors that affect learning. When teachers adopt a holistic approach to teaching and feel responsible in facilitating optimum learning, the end result of the teaching-learning process will be enlightened students. As teaching learning practices are multidimensional, they are bound to be complex in nature especially when students are found to have prior misconceptions.

 Assessment of the HOBP

The HOBP was assessed in two stages in a for physics teaching, that is (i) determination of both the teachers' and students’ perceptions of best practices in teaching and learning and (ii) classroom implementation. A Likert-style questionnaire on best practices on the teaching-learning of physics was developed based on the elements described in the HOBP model. The questionnaires were distributed to a sample of 200 Malaysian in-service physics teachers via postal method. A total of 112 forms were returned. A similar survey instrument was developed and adapted for the students. A total of 265 physics students responded to the survey.

The knowledge on best teaching practices was empirically determined in this study. Prior to developing the TGTL, the best practices for effective teaching among Malaysian physics educators were compiled. Teachers also provided input regarding their teaching problems, constraints and practices. This information was then matched against students’ perceptions on how physics should be taught and learnt. The findings of the survey reinforced the structure of the HOBP model which was used to develop the TGTL.  



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