Constructivist Strategy, Microcomputer-Based Laboratory, and Students’ Alternative Conceptions of Force and Motion

Gil Nicetas Bareng Villarino

Abstract


This study investigated junior high school students’ alternative conceptions of force and motion and the effectiveness of the microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) and the constructivist strategy (CS) on the students’ understanding of force and motion. Using a quasi-experimental non-equivalent control group design, four treatments, including the combination of MBL and CS, the combination of MBL and traditional strategy (TS), the combination of traditional laboratory (TL) and CS, and the traditional approach (control) were tried out in two schools, a public school and a private school, in a three-month period during the school year 2015–2016. A 40-item physics conceptual test was used to assess students’ alternative conceptions of force and motion. The results of the pretest showed that junior high school students have already formed their conceptions of force and motion even before physics instruction. Some of these alternative conceptions, specifically of speed, are similar to the views of children whose ages range from 5 to 8 years old. Although students’ conceptions generally improve after physics instruction, many students’ alternative conceptions remain unchanged even after physics instruction. Examples include: the greater the distance traveled, the higher the speed; being ahead implies faster speed; and if there is motion, there is a force (an object is in motion, when there is an applied force). Controlling the effect of the IQ, Mathematics II, and III grades, and the physical pretest scores, the study showed that students who were exposed to MBL activities performed significantly higher in the physics post-test than those who were exposed to the traditional activities. Students were exposed to the combination of MBL and the constructivist strategy also performed significantly higher in the physics posttest than those subjected to the traditional approach. On the other hand, the constructivist strategy as implemented in this study did not produce a significant effect on the students’ performance in the physics test. The graphs, elimination of drudgery of some of the laboratory tests, and the immediate feedback provided by the MBL instruction may have contributed to the students’ better understanding of force and motion concepts. The non-positive effect of the constructivist strategy on students’ conceptual understanding of force and motion may be due to the use of large class size instead of small groups. It may also be due to the inadequate training of the teachers on the constructivist strategy.

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