Learners' conceptual resources for kinematics graphs
Various researchers have indicated the importance of graphs in physical sciences and the difficulties that learners may experience with graphs. More specifically, learners’ problems with motion graphs have been reported in literature. Learners’ difficulty in the application of basic concepts in graphs to solve kinematics graphs problems leads to underperformance in physical sciences. Their ability to handle problems in kinematics graphs is enhanced if they have an effective knowledge base or conceptual resources on graphs. In South Africa there seems to be a gap between the GET [General Education and Training] and FET [Further Education and Training] band’s requirements on graphs. A smooth learning progression is needed. For this reason this study selected to investigate the conceptual resources acquired by grade 10 learners from grade 9 that can be used productively for the learning of kinematics graphs in grade 10. The primary aim of the study was to determine and analyse grade 10 learners’ conceptual resources for learning kinematics graphs in physical sciences. The use of a mixed method approach was considered appropriate for this study. The mixed method depended on the quantitative method to produce precise and measurable data, while a qualitative method was to enhance the understanding of the data produced by the quantitative method. Data obtained by quantitative methods was drawn into tables and graphs, and the consistency in responses determined. Patterns and trends in learners’ reasoning were probed with the aid of qualitative method. In the study it was reported that the quantitative data in the form of a questionnaire was completed by 201 learners. Qualitative data was also obtained by interviewing three learners with varying abilities. The results showed that many learners could answer mathematics questions, but struggled with similar questions in kinematics. The results further showed that the learners did not answer the questionnaire consistently, but their responses depended on the context of the questions. In the interviews learners used everyday applications to explain scientific concepts, instead of using scientific principles. Still, some of the everyday applications may be used as resources for teaching the science concepts. From the results it can be deduced that learners’ conceptual resources can influence their understanding of kinematics graphs in physics. These resources are gained from everyday experiences and previous learning in mathematics and the natural sciences. A constraint is that many learners do not efficiently integrate their mathematics and physics knowledge. iv In the study some learners did not transfer their mathematics knowledge to physics, while others could not transfer their physics knowledge to mathematics. From the results recommendations can be made for the teaching of graphs in the GET band for easier progress into the FET band. The strategy to improve understanding of kinematics graphs is to progressively integrate mathematics and physics from grade nine. Line graphs should be treated in more detail in grade 9 to form proper conceptual resources for kinematics graphs in grade ten.
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