Promoting conceptual understanding in high-school physics : Exploring the effects of using an audience response system

University essay from KTH/Lärande

Abstract: Research shows that students may be proficient in solving physics problem mathematically but still lack a fundamental understanding of the phenomena in question. One reason may be that a traditional approach to physics instruction emphasises instructors transfer of material to the students and problem-solving, sometimes at the expense of conceptional understanding. This master thesis combines socio-cultural and behaviouristic perspectives to analyse the effects of audience response systems in learning environments, in particular physics instruction. An audience response system is a tool that collects responses from the participants. It is commonly used to create interaction, thus moderating the approach of pure transmission of information. The current state of research shows that the effects of audience response systems depend on how it is used by the instructor. Audience response systems have been popular for use in peer instruction in physics and part of this study was to evaluate the design of conceptual problems. Using a mix-methods approach with interviews, observations, and tests, this thesis explores teachers’ experiences from using audience response systems to stimulate thinking and discussion on conceptual questions. Different modalities of systems are also compared. The study was affected by the school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however the remote teaching situation also makes the topic even more important. The findings confirm what is previously established about the role of the instructor and that the effects depend on their intention. This study demonstrates that an audience response system can be used for formative assessment, initiate discussions, simultaneously engage multiple participants, prompt instructors to reconsider their methods and support a productive learning environment. Important features of an audience response system are ease of use, clear display of responses, synchronous participation, and anonymity.

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