PB 11 @ School : A Large Scale Study on the Effect of

Project Number
OER 46/08 FSK

Project Duration
April 2009 - September 2012


Research on the learning and teaching of science disciplines has shown that teaching through an inquiry approach can often produce greater learning gains than using a traditional, didactic method (NRC, 2000). MOE recognizes this in the Science Curriculum Framework where it is stated: ''Central to the curriculum framework is the inculcation of the spirit of scientific inquiry.'' (MOE, 2007) However, in schools science lessons are not conducted extensively using the inquiry method because of perception that the delivery of content and performance in assessment will be compromised. The goal of our research is to pioneer a program called PBI1@School to assist the adoption of a science by inquiry approach in the secondary schools in Singapore. We propose to achieve this by adapting the ''Physics by Inquiry'' (PbI) pedagogy developed by the Physics Education Group (PEG) at the University of Washington (UW) which emphasises on conceptual understanding through an inquiry approach. However, their materials are created for university students, so we have to modify them to suit the secondary 1 level. This project will model the ''research-development-instruction'' iterative cycle by the PEG for the development of the curriculum materials. Our project comprises three phases. Phase 1 involves creating a ''physics learning'' portfolio of about 500 Secondary 1 students from 12 classes, which includes their scientific mental models, spirit of inquiry, reasoning skills and their difficulties in learning the seven topics in the Secondary 1 physics syllabus as they embark on the secondary school science curriculum. In Phase 2, the results of the Phase 1 study will be used to craft Physics By Inquiry (PBI1) lessons using newly designed materials, some adapted from the PEG, to address the learning difficulties found in Phase 1 and will be implemented on a new cohort of 500 students. From this intervention, we would learn about the shortcomings of the materials created, thus it is necessary to have a phase 3 in order to refine the materials and implement them on another new cohort of Secondary 1 students to ensure their effectiveness. Research tools for the qualitative study include different sets of rubrics to measure the students' spirit of inquiry and reasoning skills, open-ended pre-tests and post-tests (to test their reasoning skills and acquisition of physics concepts before and after intervention), interview sessions and records of students' group discussions during the PBI1 lessons to assess the students' involvement in knowledge building and critical thinking. Qualitative data collected from the study will be analysed to justify the effectiveness of the inquiry approach on conceptual understanding. We will also conduct workshops to provide the teachers with the skills required to conduct lessons using the physics by inquiry approach. These teachers will also participate in the development of the instructional materials as part of their preparation There have been few studies that examine the effect of physics by inquiry on students at a lower level (i.e. students in high school physics courses). As part of this proposed study, we hope to collect data both on the effect of PbI and Tutorials on teacher understanding as well as to probe the effect of PBI1 on Secondary 1 students' understanding. This kind of study is neither common locally, nor in the USA. NRC (2000). Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards. NRC MOE (2007). Lower Secondary Science Syllabus Express/Normal (Academic).

Research Themes

Funding Source

Related Links
NIE Research Brief Series 12-006: PbI@School - A Large-scale Study on the Effect of "Physics by Inquiry" Pedagogy on Secondary 1 Students' Attitude and Aptitude in Science
ReEd Vol 2: Learning Physics by Inquiry

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