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The Learning Conference 2003

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A Comparison of Preference in the Learning of Physics among High and Low Achievers of Secondary School Pupils

Saedah Siraj.

The purpose of the study was to explore in greater depth about the learning of Physics among secondary school students and to record and analyze the differences in their ways of learning because students function in a variety of different ways in learning situation. Some prefer to deal with concrete information while others are happier working with abstract concepts and mathematical models. Physics has always been thought of as the most difficult and dull subjects among students in the secondary as well as in the tertiary level. In general the achievement of students in the Malaysian Certificate of Examinations for Physics has been quite satisfying with the increased percentage of passes for the past 5 years (1998-2002). The average percentage of passes is normally above 95 % but unfortunately what has been the subject of the discussion is the low percentage in the distinction level (Grade A and B) among students, which is below 25%. From the analysis, it shows that physics learning among students is only at a very surface approach and measures need to be taken to encourage a deeper learning so as to increase academic excellence. The study raises three questions
(a) what are the preferences in the learning of Physics among the low achievers?
(b) what are the preferences in the learning of Physics among the high achievers?
(c) Are their achievement in Physics depend on their preferences in learning that subject in particular?

Following review of the literature, a 44-item survey Index of Learning Style (ILS) questionnaires developed by Felder-Soloman were administered to 120 Form Four secondary school students from four different schools in the district of Klang, Selangor. The ILS was used to assess preferences on four dimensions (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal and sequential/global) of learning style model formulated by Richard Felder and Linda Silverman and the results did not reflect the students’ suitability or unsuitability for a particular subject but it is hoped that the results of the study will enable the teachers to improve their teaching strategies geared towards meaningful learning situations. There were significant differences between the high and low achievers in their preferences for learning where most of the high achievers fall into the category of active and sensing learners while the low achievers are visual and sequential learners. The findings of the study did provide some insight into the connections between learning preferences and the achievements in Physics among students. It was suggested that following the results of the study, students would all be taught in a manner that sometimes matches their learning preferences, thereby promoting effective learning and a positive attitudes toward Physics.


Saedah Siraj  (Malaysia)
Associate Professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty of Education
University of Malaya

  • Learning theories
  • Learning styles
  • Physics/Science approach in teaching
  • Learning preference
  • Index of Learning Styles

(Virtual Presentation, English)