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Joseph E. Conboy, Jesuína M. B. Fonseca
Newspaper / Magazine article
School Directors, Researchers, Teachers, Policy Makers
Over 10 pages
In this study, science-tracked Portuguese secondary school students answered open-response questions regarding what schools and teachers can do to improve success in the 10th grade, specifically in Mathematics and Physics/Chemistry.
The study was performed with 346 students (214 girls) with a median age of 16 proceeding from eight public schools from the Algarve region in Portugal. Two class groups were chosen in each school and curriculum included five science disciplines: Physics-Chemistry, Biology-Geology, Mathematics and two science laboratory courses.
Four open response questions were posed: (1) What can Physics-Chemistry teachers do to improve success in the discipline in 10th grade? (b) What can mathematics teachers do to improve success in the discipline in 10th grade? (c) What can the School do to improve student success in 10th grade in general? (d) What can the School do to improve student success in Physics-Chemistry and Mathematics in the 10th grade?
The overall results obtained in this study suggest:
- In what concerns Physics-Chemistry, students pointed out that teachers should: (a) motivate students, and develop their self-confidence through creative teaching, being “creative teaching” described by students as the use of innovative methods that encourage student participation, (b) use experimentation and real-life examples, (c) be more engaged in their teaching enjoying teaching and show concern for students learning in order to create a good class environment, (d) use language appropriate to their students, (e) request students to solve more application exercises and worksheets, (f) promote an evaluation not limited to the use of highly demanding tests. Students have also recommended that official program (defined by the Ministry of education) should be reduced giving more time for the learning of concepts.
- The general pattern of responses was similar whether the students were referring to Physics-Chemistry or to Mathematics.
- The recommendations about possible school actions were organized into five categories: (a) school organization and management, (b) teachers in school, (c) classroom interactions, (d) curriculum and (e) equipment and other conditions.
- Success in Physics-Chemistry and Mathematics was associated mainly with responses related to the action of teachers. Success in general was associated more with school organization and management.
- As a concluding remark the authors pointed out that, while the implementation of student suggestions may not be appropriate in all cases, their study can be useful in identifying problem areas and in some instances may offer sound advice to teachers and educational leaders.
In general, student recommendations highlighted the need to diversify teaching methods, permitting greater student input, making clear connections between class material and real-life applications. Students indicated the importance of developing a positive classroom environment and urged more time for the learning of complex concepts.
This work deals with the importance of listening students as a strategy to enhance success in secondary science and mathematics. As indicated by the authors, although the implementation of student recommendations may not be appropriated in all cases, their suggestions can be useful to identify critical areas, and could offer sound advice to teachers and educational leaders. In particular, students pointed out that one approach to improve motivation consists of diversifying teaching methods, varying the routine of classroom activities. They also demand a greater student’s input in defining and implementing practical, experimental and real-life activities. Moreover, developing a positive classroom environment, which could be attained by teachers who enjoy teaching, who are patient and fair, and concerned with student understanding of subjects, is recommended by students. The results achieved in this study are quite interesting and corroborate the importance of the presented strategy.
Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 2009, 5(1), 3-14 (
Instituto Politécnico de Bragança

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2014.05.07

Posted by Mariusz Jarocki (Poland)

Message: In the paper science-tracked students in Portugal responded to questions regarding what schools and teachers can do to

improve success in Maths/Physics/Chemistry learning. Their suggestions close a feedback loop to optimise methods and tools

used to effective teaching nature science courses.

The document started by listing of very interesting sources, demonstrating that many students do not understand essential

concepts of nature sciences, especially Maths. The authors try to analyse problems in both global and national contexts, with

a general observation that a better understanding of student perceptions can provide science educators about how to increase

academic success.

Next the authors present a methodology of a survey: participants, material and procedure. This part is very relevant to

Chemistry is all around Network project as a template of making a similar research and evaluating its results. The questions

are in my opinion as simple as possible and complete enough to allow to draw valuable conclusions. I found as a Very good

idea to compile the results from various courses: differences between Maths and Physics/Chemistry are very stimulating to

astute and more thorough examination.

The central and the most interesting part of the paper is of course a discussion of the result. I think that there are some

noteworthy observations. Firstly, students recommend that teachers zealously create a positive classroom environment.

Secondly, the programs should be shorter and allow more time for the learning of complex concepts. I would like to especially

emphasize the next conclusion: students appear to know what they want, but do not necessarily appreciate administrative

mechanisms and hierarchy. The lack of this impact (from students to teachers) is a serious obstacle to improve teaching, not

only nature science courses. The next, very important (in my opinion) observations are: an impact of a number of students in

classroom, an impact of nationality/cultural origin and a role of \"everyday, reallife events\" in learning process.

The paper is highly recommended not only for those who want to investigate specifics of Portugal schools and programs. So its

relation to Chemistry is all around Network is very close.

Date: 2013.02.11

Posted by José Antonio Martín-Lagos Martínez (Spain)

Message: This publication is relevant because it analyses the main problems that students encounter to better understand physics, chemistry and mathematics; the importance of the article is that it is based on a survey in which students are the ones who evaluate the difficulties they have with these subjects. Students think that teachers don’t bring the subject down to their reality and to more everyday situations when giving an explanation of the subject’s content. Students think that the subjects must be approached from a more practical and less theoretical point of view. Students need to stop seeing chemistry as something abstract; they must see it as something close to them. The system of class work must also change, the way of explaining the problems.
It gives keys that can have an impact on the improvement of learning, like the change in the teaching system and in the syllabus itself.
The article doesn’t go into that subject matter; given that it focuses on students, it only deals with the problems of the students without going into the teachers’ problems.

Date: 2012.12.13

Posted by Inforef (Belgium)

Message: This publication seeks a way to increase success in 10th grade in science teaching, including physics-chemistry, asking students through a questionnaire what should be improved in the teaching and school organisation. They replied among other that using innovative methods and making students participate more would motivate them, that they want more experiments and exercises, that teachers should use a more appropriate (clearer, more understandable) language, more varied forms of assessments, a shorter curriculum in order to have more time to assimilate the concepts, links between the subject and everyday life…
The students’ answers are coherent with the comments from teachers (complexity to grasp concepts, too theoretical lessons) although some of their requests are not necessarily advisable (such as easier evaluations).
It would be interesting to know whether some the students’ requests were indeed implemented and what effects these had on their results.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.