About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 6902-6905
Publication year: 2010
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain

TEACHING PHYSICS TO STUDENTS FROM SAUDI: IMPROVEMENT BY EMPHASIS ON THRESHOLD CONCEPTS

S. Talele

University of Waikato (NEW ZEALAND)
Over the last couple of years, most of the English speaking countries have seen growth in number of students from Saudi Arabia. These students arrive here with minimal ability in English. Once they make their way through studying the language in a year or two, depending on their interest they choose to study bridging courses, and this is where the challenge begins for students and teachers. I have been approached by these students for after hours help in Physics. Here is an attempt to share with everyone my findings about the existing problems and the solutions I experienced to be effective when I taught them.

First of all let me mention that amongst my previous decades of teaching students at similar level, this was a brand new experience. Having done the first year of studying English, it is expected that these students have similar background as other local students in the class. In spite of many achievements in their first year, these students seem to be far away from the necessary background of science and mathematics. The issue was not only about lack of concentration and understanding, or lack of motivation and priorities; it was about insufficient familiarity with scientific words which appear in Physics, and the lack of algebraic skills which a teacher would just assume (1). While the later issue is prevalent with local students as well, the earlier one is very special to these students. These students pick up the colloquial English very well but when it comes to the technical terms, it is really difficult for them. This is why they misunderstand the threshold concept (1) and many times focus unnecessarily on a very tiny issue which perhaps they think is most important, mainly because it is asked in the examinations.

As I kept working with these students I tried a number of methods: e.g emphasis on them read aloud the question, get them to solve problems with my guidance, simple hands on activities to enhance the threshold concepts, well drawn colorful diagrams which can be repeatedly used as clue cards during the lesson. I also allowed peer discussion as long as it was in the right direction. I found out that enacting what I am speaking helped them keep on the task and understand better. A particular session would focus on only one threshold concept (2) and the activities would all be based on this concept. Revisiting this concept in short the next time I teach them was found very effective to assess their understanding.

My observation was that they need to learn to organize themselves better. I forced it on them by giving them a list of things to do or bring. I helped them make a sheet of important information to go over again and again especially on the day before examinations. It was also observed that their span of concentration had to be kept a good watch on and something different had to happen every 10 minutes to keep them on task.
The overall understanding of the subject by using above methods was improved and the exam performance was at least 30 percent better.

1. Measuring Students’ Beliefs about Physics in Saudi Arabia
H. Alhadlaq, F. Alshaya, S. Alabdulkareem, K. K. Perkins, W. K. Adams, and
C.E. Wieman, PERC proceeding 2009
2.Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines, Occasional Report 4, 2003, by Jan Meyer and Ray Land
@InProceedings{TALELE2010TEA,
author = {Talele, S.},
title = {TEACHING PHYSICS TO STUDENTS FROM SAUDI: IMPROVEMENT BY EMPHASIS ON THRESHOLD CONCEPTS},
series = {3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2010 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-614-2439-9},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {15-17 November, 2010},
year = {2010},
pages = {6902-6905}}
TY - CONF
AU - S. Talele
TI - TEACHING PHYSICS TO STUDENTS FROM SAUDI: IMPROVEMENT BY EMPHASIS ON THRESHOLD CONCEPTS
SN - 978-84-614-2439-9/2340-1095
PY - 2010
Y1 - 15-17 November, 2010
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2010 Proceedings
SP - 6902
EP - 6905
ER -
S. Talele (2010) TEACHING PHYSICS TO STUDENTS FROM SAUDI: IMPROVEMENT BY EMPHASIS ON THRESHOLD CONCEPTS, ICERI2010 Proceedings, pp. 6902-6905.
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