Efficacy of the constructivist approach in altering students' conceptions in college physics

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education Major in Physics

Subject Categories



Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education


Science Education

Thesis Adviser

Bee Ching U. Ong

Defense Panel Chair

Melecio C. Deauna

Defense Panel Member

Reuben V. Quiroga
Robert C. Roleda
Adora S. Pili
Jaime Raul O. Janairo


This study compares the effectiveness of the constructivist approach and that of the traditional teaching method in reducing students' alternative conceptions of heat and thermodynamics among college physics students.Four intact classes, each consisting of 30 second year engineering students enrolled in a 4-unit course in General Physics during the second semester of school year 1998-1999, were the subjects of the study. The experimental (constructivist) and control (traditional) classes were chosen from the University of Northern Philippines in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Mariano Marcos State University in Batac, Ilocos Norte, respectively. A pretest-posttest non-equivalent control group design was used in this study. Prior to the treatment period, the students' alternative conceptions of heat and thermodynamics were identified using a 25-item test. The test covered the following topics: (1) Heat, Temperature and Expansion (2) First Law of Thermodynamics (3) Second Law of Thermodynamics (4) Heat Transfer and (5) Change of State. Changes in the conceptual understanding of the students were investigated by comparing their responses in the pretest and posttest. The difference in the proportion of students in both groups answering each item correctly was obtained to indicate their achievement after the treatment period. The effects of teaching approach, school ability, mathematical ability and their interactions were also ascertained by employing a three-factor Analysis of Covariance on their posttest scores, with pretest score as the covariate. At the end of the intervention, the students in the experimental group were asked to give their perceptions, comments and evaluation of the constructivist teaching strategy used.

Findings of the study revealed that the college students in both groups held several alternative conceptions or misconceptions regarding heat and thermodynamics. There was a significant difference between the posttest scores of the experimental and the control groups.It can be concluded that the constructivist approach is more effective than traditional instruction in reducing students' alternative conceptions. Moreover, school ability and mathematical ability had significant effects on the posttest scores. High scholastic ability students performed better in the posttest than low school ability students did. Likewise, above-average mathematical ability students had higher posttest scores than below- average mathematical ability students. There was a significant interaction between teaching approach and mathematical ability. Most of the students in the experimental group appreciated the constructivist approach. They pointed out that the student-centered approach is appropriate in the tertiary level and superior to the teacher-oriented traditional teaching method. Students learn physical concepts better when their initial conceptions are addressed, when they are given enough time to interact among themselves and with their teacher and when they work on instructional tasks where collaboration is emphasized.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

157 leaves


College students; Teaching methods; Physics--Study and teaching; Effective teaching

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