Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 8, Issue 2, Article 7 (Dec., 2007)
Fui Fong HO and Hong Kwen BOO

Cooperative learning: Exploring its effectiveness in the Physics classroom

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The purpose of this action research is to explore the effectiveness of using cooperative learning strategies on students' academic achievement, their understanding of physics concepts and their motivation to learn in the physics classroom.

In many countries, there has been a decline in the number of students wishing to continue with physics (Woolnough, 1994).  A number of factors have been identified by previous researchers as contributing to this decline. Smithers (2006) noted that the study of physics in schools and universities is spiralling into decline as many teenagers believe it is too difficult. Sillitto and MacKinnon (2000) noted that physics has an image of being both `difficult' and `boring'. Williams, Stanisstreet, Spall, Boyes and Dickson (2003) observed the major general reasons for students finding physics uninteresting are that it is seen as difficult and irrelevant: physics deals with abstract concepts and students find these concepts difficult to grasp.

The domain of electricity is the field where most research on students' learning difficulties is available. Psillos (1998) found that the emerging picture world-wide is not promising given that an adequate knowledge of, for example, electrical circuits has rarely been acquired by students by the end of secondary education. Students find the concepts in electricity and magnetism difficult as the invisible nature of electricity and magnetism make these topics abstract. These same topics were cited by students as a reason for physics being seen as ‘boring'.

In 2005, the Ministry of Education in Singapore embarked on “Teach Less, Learn More” (TLLM) by focusing on improving the quality of interaction between teachers and learners so that our learners can be more engaged in learning and better able to achieve the desired outcomes of education. It calls for all educators to reflect on why they teach, what they teach and how they teach.

AAAS (1990) noted that the collaborative nature of scientific and technological work should be strongly reinforced by frequent group activity in the classroom. Scientists and engineers work mostly in groups and less often as isolated investigators. Vygostsky (1978), (cited in Reveles, Cordova & Kelly, 2004), emphasized that sociocultural theory posits the interwoven nature of learning and development within and among students as they engage in concerted activities in a classroom community. Learning often takes place best when students have opportunities to express ideas and get feedback from their peers (AAAS, 1990). Students take action and interact with others to construct the contextual knowledge of the classroom. Their learning of and about science is therefore inseparable from the surrounding environment in which it takes place (Reveles et al., 2004).


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