Alternative conceptions of high school science students on projectile motion

Hlatshwayo, Elvis Stanley
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The aim of this project was to research alternative conceptions that grades 11 and 12 high school physical science learners have about projectile motion. Their performance is compared with first year university physics students. A questionnaire was designed for grade 11 and 12 learners. The understanding of university students was assessed through ex post facto scrutiny of responses to a projectile question set in their mid-year examination. The results of this study were analyzed through the responses of the learners and university students. The study revealed that the grade 11 learners performed better than their grade 12 counterparts, though the same questionnaire was used for both groups. Such differences may be associated with the fact that projectile motion is taught during the grade 11 year of study. Grade 11 learners may therefore have a better memory recall of the formal teaching of the topic and associated concepts. By contrast, grade 12 learners might have resorted to a “re-understanding” of the various concepts as they have been acquired in their own world: these are what the literature refers to as, inter alia, alternative conceptions or naïve ideas. The performance of university students was also better than that of the grades 11 and 12 learners. This may be due to a maturity factor, as well as the way in which projectile motion was dealt with in their lectures. Arising out of our analysis, we shall make a number of recommendations as to how the topic might be better taught at the secondary level. Secondary educators need to be better informed about alternative conceptions research, and preventative and remedial activities that could be adopted.
alternative conceptions, projective motion