Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 9, Issue 1, Article 3 (June, 2008)
Wheijen CHANG
Challenges encountered in implementing constructivist teaching in physics: A qualitative approach

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Design of the constructivist teaching

In this study, the constructivist teaching allocated about one quarter of the teaching time for the students to discuss conceptual questions, by means of reducing the time spent on derivations of traditional problems. The reduction of arithmetical problems in class was compensated for by assigning end-of-chapter problems for the students to solve after class. Quick tests on the assignments were given to monitor the students’ learning. The questions for group discussion were mostly embedded in everyday life contexts, and some were presented along with demonstrations. About 6 to 10 questions were assembled as a worksheet for group discussion, which took 20 to 30 minutes to discuss. During the group discussion, the researcher assigned several groups to write their answers on the blackboard. Then all the students were encouraged to voluntarily correct the answers on the board. Answers from the assigned groups were mostly not graded, while the volunteer students who made right corrections received credits. The researcher then took about 15 minutes to review the answers and instruct the related theories when necessary. In addition, the researcher introduced an independent study project in which students were asked to write up a reading report. Meanwhile, so-called ‘challenge questions’ were occasionally introduced to the students, allowing about 10 days for them to be answered. The students were also encouraged to join an on-line learning website for this course to discuss their questions, which were mainly context-rich. The independent reading reports, challenge questions, and on-line discussions were not compulsory, but students could earn extra credits (< 15% in total) if participating with acceptable performance.

Based on the macroscopic quantitative evaluations of the program, the learning outcomes since the second year (2000) of teaching innovation appeared to be encouraging; the gain in percentages of the constructivist students’ achievement in conceptual tests ranged from 12% to 24% compared with 5% to 9% in traditional classes (Chang, 2005a). Meanwhile, the students in the constructivist classes gave significantly positive responses about the teaching performance as well as about their learning achievements (Chang, 2005a).


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