A systems approach to physics education at first year university level

The research work described in this thesis evaluates the contribution which a systems approach can make to the development of an instructional programme. The thesis investigated is that such an approach can lead directly to a better understanding of the instructional process in a given subject and thus indirectly to more efficient instruction in that area. The term systems approach is first reconsidered and a view is established which is broader than that normally considered in education. Two distinct aspects of this systems approach are identified-an “applied” aspect and a “basic” aspect. With respect to curriculum development and analysis, the applied aspect involves the design, development and evaluation of a learning programme. Here evaluation includes the development of specific instruments and procedures which can lead directly to the improvement of the learning programme. The basic aspect involves the investigation of the developed learning system in terms of models which explore the interactions between an instructional programme and the students involved. These two aspects of the systems approach are then applied to the development and analysis of an instructional programme in physics at the first year university level. The determination of objectives, the design of instruction and the evaluation of instructional methods are detailed. Since the objectives of the instruction are generalized learner objectives, particular consideration is given to the measurement of student attainment with respect to these objectives. Four distinct aspects of student attainment are identified by the use of principal components analyses. In terms of the basic aspect of the systems approach, both general diagrammatic models and specific statistical models are developed to obtain a better understanding of the particular first year university learning system under consideration. Various statistical models, which attempt to establish and clarify interrelationships within the instructional programme are explored. Path analysis is used as the major statistical technique. Through the application of the systems view to the development and analysis of the first year university physics instructional programme, it has been possible to see some of the potential, some of the problems, and some of the limitations of the systems approach to physics education. In particular the systems approach, as considered in this thesis, appears to provide a broad and comprehensive framework on which to base curriculum work and to provide a viewpoint which leads to an emphasis on particularly important aspects of an instructional system-namely the objectives, the teaching methods, the assessment procedures and the feedback mechanisms within the system
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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