Misconception In Physics In Senior Secondary Schools

Physics Education Project Material

Misconception In Physics In Senior Secondary Schools


This study investigated the senior secondary school studentā€™s misconceptions in Physics in various Local Government Area of Lagos state. The major misconceptions were outlined and the hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance using gender, age and cultural as moderator variable. Three hundred (300) SSS III Physics students were randomly selected from Eight (8) Senior Secondary Schools purposively selected from four (4) various Local Government Area of Lagos which constituted the sample of the study. Fifty (50) items test questions on misconception of students in Physics which was the instruments used in collecting data. The instruments were subjected to face, content and empirical validations.

The data collected were analyzed using Pearson moment correlation, T-test. The results of the study showed a positive significant relationship between students ā€˜gender and misconception in physics. Other findings of the study are: there was significant relationship between the cultural background of student and misconception in Physics. There was no significant relationship between the studentsā€™ age and misconception in physics. The researcher recommended that for studentsā€™ understanding of basic concepts in Physics, attention should be focused on enhancing the studentsā€™ understanding by providing adequate competent teachers and environmental factors; since students cultural background is an important variable in achievement.

Chapter One


1.1 Background Of The Study

The major concepts which underline and unify the topics in the SSS physics curriculum content are motion and energy. Relevance of the topics to society in terms of application is stressed throughout. Only the topics which are directly derivable from the concepts and their sub concepts were selected. Generally, the approach in the curriculum is to treat the topics under a unifying concept in a general form and provide some elaboration in the applications in order to advocate relevance and use copious illustration to aid understanding. Research on physics learning has revealed that students come to their physics course with already ideas about the world that differ from accepted scientific ideas. This initial common sense will be used to refer to misconception. There is a research which showed that it is difficult for students to change their initial common sense (McDermott,1990) because their own believes are grounded in long personal experience. Changing initial ideas of students is often difficult. It is necessary to connect the new knowledge with their existing knowledge structure.

The effectiveness of introductory physics instruction is important to improve student attitudes toward an understanding of scientific process; for example, improve ability in quantitative problem solving, improve studentsā€™ laboratory skill, improve studentsā€™ understanding of physics concepts, and reasoning skill. Some scientific explanation of physical phenomena often differs from the intuitive ideas or existing conceptual structures. How physics is learned and designing more effective approaches to teach physics will be our ultimate goal. One of difficult topics in teaching physics is electricity and magnetism students often have difficulty in understanding electricity and magnetism because it is the abstract nature of the subject which is difficult to visualize and the mathematical relationships can be complex. Electricity and magnetism is seen as a central area of physics curricula at all level of education, primary, secondary and tertiary. Studentsā€™ understanding of concept in electricity and magnetism has not been investigated in as great detail as in mechanics. Some research showed that teaching methods can be developed to change studentsā€™ ideas in electricity and magnetism with scientific model like conceptual conflict and analogies (Driver et al.1994).

Over the last 20 years, physics education research has revealed that students already have a number of ideas about how physical systems behave even before they start to study physics. In many cases these ideas often called alternative conceptions or common sense science differ from accepted scientific ideas. Other research has shown that it is difficult for students to change their initial ideas. The development and extensive use of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) conceptual test concerning some basic kinematics and Newtonā€™s three laws has raised the consciousness of many physics teachers about the effectiveness of traditional education. Many physics instructors have expressed an interest in assessing studentsā€™ knowledge of electricity and magnetism. However, developing an instrument to assess studentsā€™ ideas in electricity and magnetism is a very different task than development of the FCI.

Studentā€™s preconceptions in science have since aroused science educatorsā€™ interest for over 30years because of the principle idea of constructivist learning theory, which was stated as ā€œstudents come to the learning environment with the preconceptions, which were formed during their interactions within physical and social environment and those preconceptions affect learningā€ (Pfundt and Duit, 2006). The main interest of studies focus on those preconceptions of which especially contradict with scientific knowledge and create problems in learning. In this study, the notion of misconception was used for such preconceptions. Research carried out resulted with some findings about the main features of misconceptions. These findings are listed below (Driver and Bell, 1986; Driver, 1989; Mutimucuio, 1998; Widodo et al., 2002; Tyler, 2002).

  1. Misconceptions of students who have different culture, religion and language are frequently similar to each other.
  2. Misconceptions may deeply penetrate into studentsā€™ minds and resist to change.
  3. Everyday language, culture and religion can cause the formation of misconceptions.
  4. Misconceptions can be parallel to the explanations made by earlier scientists in interpreting scientific phenomena.

Misconceptions may develop after a formal teaching. Many researchers came up with the same findings during the investigation of studentsā€™ misconceptions about simple electric circuits (Osborne, 1983; Cohen at al., 1982; Tiberghien, 1983; Shipstone, 1984; KƤrrqvist, 1985; Shipstone et al., 1988; McDermott and Shafer, 1992; Barges et al., 1999; Lee and Law, 2001; KĆ¼Ć§Ć¼kƶzer, 2003).

The most frequently encountered findings are given below:

  1. The concepts of current, energy and potential difference are not respected as different concepts and used interchangeably with each other.
  2. Current is consumed by circuit components.
  3. Current comes out from the (+) pole of the battery and enters to the bulb where it is consumed to light the bulb which is not affected by the second wire connected between the (-) pole and itself.
  4. Current comes out from the both poles of the battery and clashes in the bulb to light it.
  5. Current is divided equally in each line of the parallel circuits.
  6. Positively charged object have gained protons, rather than being deficient in electron.
  7. A change before the bulb affects the brightness of the bulb in circuit connected in series but the same bulb is not affect by change in anywhere of the circuit after the bulb.
  8. Batteries are constant current sources. Misconceptions outlined above were reported in studies conducted with students in different countries and with different age groups.

Shipstone et al.ā€™s (1988) study is an important research, which summarizes that students in five European countries also have similar misconceptions about simple electric circuits. The misconception of ā€œcurrent is consumed by circuit componentsā€ which is listed above is almost reported in all studies about electric circuits. Students sometimes may have misconceptions stemming from the use of everyday language (Gilbert et al., 1982; Leach and Scott, 2003). Gilbert et al. (1982) The misconception of senior secondary student in physics can also be linked to the teacherā€™s methods of imparting and evaluating physics in classrooms, the teacherā€™s method of imparting and evaluating physics is a major cause of misconception among senior secondary school student in Nigeria.

1.2 Problems Of Teaching Physics In Nigeria Secondary School

A number of deep-rooted issues has been identified which are peculiar to physics subject in senior secondary schools and needs to be addressed.

These problems, common to senior secondary schools are:

  1. Inadequacy of materials and personnel with respect to teaching the subject.
  2. Lack of laboratories and Equipment Inability of the teachers to impact the subject to the student s, which might be due to the problem of teachersā€™ qualification and effectiveness.
  3. The overloading of West African examination council syllabus.
  4. Shortages in the supply of physics teachers and poor environments in which physics practical are taught.
  5. The ability of this subject to inspire and interest pupils, particularly girls; and other factors such as careers advice which affect pupilsā€™ desire to study physics at higher levels.
  6. The inflexibility, irrelevance and repetitiveness of the curriculum;
  7. The lack of engagement in debate and quiz in this subject.
The limitations on practical and fieldwork
  1. The low educational value of coursework Non implementation of ICT in science teaching.
  2. The shortage of qualified science teachers is a well-known problem. The increasing demand for science graduates in other more lucrative sectors and the decreasing number of graduates in these subjects means that we are caught in a seemingly endless cycle of decline in specialist science teachers
  3. Insufficient account taken of pupils’ previous learning and attainment, including what they had already learned in primary school;
  4. Some tasks set for pupils were either too difficult for them or insufficiently challenging.
  5. Insufficiently high teacher expectations of the pace of pupils’ learning and of the quality of presentation of their written work.

1.3 Student Performances In Physics

Performances of students at the senior secondary school level have been the concern of government and parents. The performance of student in physics has deteriorated for the past few decades due to certain factors, which are: Teacherā€™s deficiency in various contents they teach which affect the quality of learning and performance of the student. The effects of laboratory facilities and resources also have a major influence on the performance of students in physics at this level.

Studentā€™s interest and achievement in Physics at secondary school level lie within the teacher and studentsā€™ relationship in a given subject. Girls and women may be regarded as late arrivals in the scene of science in Nigeria. There is a significant differences in performance of male and female students in Physics Historically, Physics has been taught at the highschool and college level primarily by the lecture method together with laboratory exercise aimed at verifying concepts taught.

1.4 Statement Of The Problem

The issue of misconception in physics in senior secondary schools is a major problem that befalls the educational sector. Yearly, students record massive failure in physics especially in the West African secondary school certificate exam (WASSCE) and the newly introduced National Examination Council(NECO) Examination. New effective methods of teaching and learning physics needs to be designed to curb misconception of students in physics and to improve the academic achievement of students in senior secondary schools.

Recognizing effective method of teaching and learning, if considered can improve the level of academic achievement of students in senior secondary schools physics. The study is aimed at identifying effects of these methods on academic performance of students and also to determine the extent to which the methods can modify or change studentsā€™ academic performance in physics.

1.5 Purpose Of Study

The general focus point of this research study is to make an inquiry into senior secondary school misconception in physics. However, this study is set out to achieve certain objectives, which is the main purpose why this research work is embarked upon.

The purpose of the study are as follows;

  1. To outline the major misconceptions of student in physics.
  2. To determine the difference between misconception of male students in physics and female student in physics.
  3. To determine if the misconception of student in physics is dependent on student cultural background.
  4. To determine the relationship of age and misconceptions of students in physics.

1.6 Research Question:

  1. What are the major misconceptions of students in physics?
  2. Is there difference between the misconception of male and female students in physics?
  3. What is the relationship between the misconceptions of studentsā€™ in physics and their cultural background?
  4. What is the relationship of age and studentsā€™ misconception in physics?

1.7 Research Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1

H01: There is no significant difference between the misconceptions of male and female students in physics.

Hypothesis 2

H02: There is no significant relationship between cultural background and misconceptions of students in physics.

Hypothesis 3

H03: There is no significant relationship between studentā€™s age and misconceptions in physics.

1.8 Significance Of Study

The significance of this study cannot be under estimated or over emphasized. Firstly, this study tends add to the body of general knowledge and existing research of the subject inquiry. Secondly, this study emphasizes the urgent need to vigorously examine the misconceptions of senior secondary school students in science (physics). This will not only help to curb the general misconceptions in senior secondary school, it will also enhance and improve the student knowledge and skills in the area of science (physics) as well as related subjects.

Furthermore, this study stresses the need to implement the national policies that will aid the training of specialized and qualified teachers in the area of science development in Nigeria. This will further strengthen and increase the nationā€™s status in terms of science development within the global world as well as enhance the adoption of scientific application in all works of life socially, politically and economically.

1.9 Scope Of Study

The scope of study will cover senior secondary school student, specifically senior secondary students within the various Local Government Area of Lagos State. This study is limited to senior secondary students only due to speculated and limited time frame this study is expected to be carried out.

1.10 Definition Of Terminologies

Terms and concepts are very central to the understanding of any scientific research. More so, it is imperative to give operational definitions that will be used for the study. This will help make the study explicit and at the same time give the reader a thorough understanding of the central terms concept used in the study.


Is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanation prediction about the universe.


A view or opinion that is incorrect based on faulty thinking or understanding.


Is a process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preference and may involve synthesizing different types of information (Sandman et al, 2000). For the purpose of this study learning will be restricted to the development of science.


Senior secondary schools.

Misconception In Physics In Senior Secondary Schools

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