In search of student engagement in high school physics through contextual teaching
Lukie, Michael Paul
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This action research study compared student intellectual engagement between two different instructional delivery methods. The first instructional method was a non-contextual teaching approach using a textbook to teach the work outcomes for the S4 physics mechanics unit. The second instructional method was a contextual teaching approach where students built an electric guitar pickup and a simple electric guitar in order to provide a context for the teaching of the electromagnetism outcomes for the S4 physics electricity unit. To measure the intellectual engagement of students, data was collected from personal student journals and from questions generated by students following different instructional activities. The student generated questions were categorized and ranked to judge the degree of student intellectual engagement and depth of thought using a framework where numerical values were assigned to the questions. Each question was categorized as peripheral, factual, conceptual, or philosophical where the peripheral questions had the lowest intellectual ranking and the philosophical questions had the highest intellectual ranking. Data was also collected from cumulative unit tests, short exit slips and a personal teacher journal. The research revealed that students were more intellectually engaged and exhibited much more positive attitudes during the contextual lessons. The questions generated by students during the contextual lessons were of the higher order factual and conceptual types while the questions generated during the non-contextual lessons were predominantly of the lowest order peripheral type. By using the electric guitar and electric guitar pickup as a context, this action research study demonstrated that these contextual activities intellectually engaged students and helped to facilitate their deeper understanding of electromagnetism.