Improving secondary students' revision of physics concepts through computer-mediated peer discussion and prescriptive tutoring

Change log
Soong, Benson 

In this dissertation, I report on the design, implementation, and evaluation of my intervention for the revision of physics in a mainstream public secondary school in Singapore. This intervention was conducted over a one-year period, and involved students who were taking their GCE 'O' level physics examination after immersion in the intervention, which was conducted as part of their regular physics revision curriculum. Based on sociocultural theory, the intervention changed the practice of how physics revision was conducted in a particular secondary physics classroom. The intervention consisted of a computer-mediated collaborative problem-solving (CMCPS) component and a teacher-led prescriptive tutoring (PT) component. The CMCPS portion of the intervention required the students to follow basic “ground rules” for computer-mediated problem-solving of physics questions with other students, while the PT portion saw the teacher prescriptively addressing students' misconceptions, misunderstandings, and other problem-solving difficulties as captured by the discussion logs during the CMCPS session. The intervention was evaluated in two stages. First, a small-scale (pilot) study which utilised a control group (CG) / alternate intervention group (AG) / experimental group (XG) with pre- and post-test research design was conducted in order to evaluate whether the intervention was effective in promoting improved learning outcomes of a small group of students. Given the success of the pilot study, a main study involving the entire class of students was conducted. This main study was evaluated by comparing the cohort's actual GCE 'O' level physics results with their expected grades (as given by the Singapore Ministry of Education based on the students' primary school's results). Also, the students' 'O' level physics results were compared with the average physics results obtained by previous cohorts. The quantitative data indicated that the intervention for physics revision appears to be effective in helping the entire class of students revise physics concepts, resulting in improved test scores, while the qualitative data indicated that the students' interest in physics had increased over time. The physics teacher also reflected that the intervention had provided her with much deeper insights into her students' mental models.

Physics education, Learning intervention, Sociocultural theory, Peer discussion, Prescriptive tutoring, Significant improvements in learning outcomes
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge