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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Research questions

The research questions formulated for the study are as follows:

Question 1:   What are the effects of the use of cooperative learning strategies on students'  academic achievement?

Question 2:   To what extent does the use of cooperative learning strategies help students achieve a better understanding of physics concepts?

Question 3:  To what extent does the use of cooperative learning strategies affect students'  motivation to learn?

Students' academic achievement was measured by looking for any significance difference in the mean scores between the pre- and post-intervention tests for the CL (cooperative learning or treatment) class and at any significance difference in mean scores for the post-intervention tests between the CL and the TT class (a comparable class using traditional method of teaching).

To measure if students have achieved better understanding of physics concepts, in addition to examining whether there are any significant differences in the mean scores for the post-intervention tests between the CL and the TT class, the students' science journal entries were evaluated using the rubrics in the 6 facets of understanding developed by Wiggins and McTighe (2001). In their theory of understanding, they viewed understanding as multi-faceted.  The six-facets of understanding are most easily summarized by specifying the particular achievement each facet reflects. When we truly understand, we:

  1. can explain how things work, what they imply, where they connect and why they happened;
  2. can ask the learner to interpret, translate, make sense of, show the significance of, decode and make a story meaningful;
  3. can apply and effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse contexts and reveal students innovation in application;
  4. have perspective, i.e. we can infer assumptions upon which an idea or theory is based; know the limits as well as the power of an idea (i.e. see the big picture);
  5. can empathise by using one's imagination to see and feel as others see and feel; listen and hear what others often do not;
  6. have self-knowledge to question our own understanding and are also aware of what we do not understand and why understanding is so hard.

These six facets of understanding allow us to assess understanding through performance.

The effects of using CL on students' motivation to learn were examined through the analysis of the pre- and post-intervention perception surveys.


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