Surveying Relations between First-Year Science Students’ Understanding of Electrostatics and Students’ Fields of Interest in Thailand

By Thanida Sujarittham, Narumon Emarat, Kwan Arayathanitkul and Jintawat Tanamatayarat.

Published by The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

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To improve students’ achievement in physics, many physics education researchers have sought to identify factors affecting on it. The evidences showed that age, gender, interest in physics, study habits, and especially attitude toward physics directly influenced on students’ conceptual understanding. The purpose of this study is to survey the relation between first-year science students’ conceptual understanding of electrostatics and their fields of interest. The samples were 182 first-year science students from a university in Thailand and were attending a general physics course in the second semester of academic year 2010. All science students enrolled the same courses in the first year including general science and non-science subjects. From the second year onward, they would enroll in different courses depending on their selected field of interest. The students can select only one field of interest as their major discipline; Biology, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Mathematics, or Physics. Therefore, the students were divided into 5 groups. We used 20 questions from the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM) to probe students’ understanding of electrostatics. The students were then asked to identify which field they would be interested to study in the future. Results showed that the average pre-test score of the class was 36% . After the course, the CSEM test was conducted again as post-test. It was found that the students who selected Physics as their field of interest got the highest improvement as measured by using the normalized gain (Hake 1998). This was followed by normalized gains of the students who selected Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, and Biotechnology, respectively. The difference of their learning gains was significant at 0.05. The results implied that students’ field of interest was one of the factors affecting on the improvement of their conceptual understanding.

Keywords: Electrostatics, CSEM Test, Conceptual Understanding, Students’ Fields of Interest, Normalized Gain

The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp.129-142. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 651.662KB).

Thanida Sujarittham

Ph.D. Student, Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand

Miss Thanida Sujarittham is a Ph.D. student in science and technology education at the Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. Moreover, she is a member of the Physics Education Network of Thailand (PENThai) research group which aims to help improve teachers teaching and student learning in Physics. Her current research is developing teaching and learning on first–year Electricity and Magnetism.

Asst. Prof. Narumon Emarat

Lecturer, Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rajathewee, Thailand

Narumon Emarat, Ph.D. in Applied Physics, the University of Edinburgh, is an assistant professor at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Thailand. Her major fields of research are applied physics in fluid dynamics and physics education.

Asst. Prof. Kwan Arayathanitkul

Lecturer, Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rajathewee, Thailand

Kwan Arayathanitkul, Ph.D. in Physics, the University of Pennsylvania, is an assistant professor at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Thailand. His major fields of research are laser applications and physics education.

Jintawat Tanamatayarat

Ph.D. Student, Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rajathewee, Thailand

Jintawat Tanamatayarat, Ph.D. in Physics, Mahidol University, is interested in physics education, laser applications, and forensic science. He is currently a lecturer at the Physics Department, King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok. His current research areas focus on improving students understanding of properties of lasers, force and motions, electricity, and magnetism by applying invented demonstration sets through hands–on activity and an interactive lecture demonstration approach.