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Title: An investigation into university teachers' and students' perceptions of problem solving in physics in higher education in Saudi Arabia
Author: Alsufyani, N.
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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This study was conducted to investigate university teachers' and students' perceptions of problem solving in physics in higher education in Saudi Arabia. The current study took into consideration the sociocultural notion that context is an important contributor to the learning process and impacts on the interaction between people. This study focused on aspects of the context, such as community, school, university, language, syllabus and classroom practices, that influence students' learning of problem-solving in physics. An explanatory sequential mixed methods approach was used to collect data using two questionnaires (the Force Concept Inventory test and the Mechanics Base Line Test), semi-structured interviews, classroom observations and think aloud protocols. The study sample consisted of 31 participants in total, including ten preparatory-year students, eleven first-year students, five preparatory-year teachers and five first-year teachers. The findings revealed that students found difficulty in understanding problems; they did not seem to know how to implement the steps of problem-solving (understanding the problem, devising the plan, carrying out the plan and looking back). Moreover, this study revealed that a number of social and cultural aspects played an essential role in influencing these students' learning of problem-solving in physics. The study also revealed that students were fearful of asking their teachers questions when they did not understand. Likewise, this study emphasised the important role of providing a safe classroom environment to create social interaction between students and their teachers, and between students themselves, in order to enable students to think and access assistance to their performance, whether from their teacher or peers. Subsequently, this assistance improved students' understanding in physics lectures and their understanding of physics problems. Also, the study highlighted that a number of linguistic issues, such as the teacher's dialect or the use of English as medium of instruction, were an obstacle to students' understanding of mechanics problems, thereby causing an additional cognitive burden. In addition, this study found that students seemed not to have the opportunity to get assistance, such as in the form of feedback or questioning from their teachers, due to the huge number of students in the class, which prevented teachers from guiding students' thinking while solving physics problems. It was also found that students' comprehension of Newtonian concepts was inadequate for successful problem-solving due to a lack of basic physics knowledge.
Supervisor: Mansour, N. ; Larkin, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available