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Sustained Physics Education Reform

         Physics, one of three main branches of pure science, is particularly necessary in development of new cutting edge technology. Many countries have emphasized on improving teaching and learning physics. Moreover, physics is the subject that most students have difficulties with the most. Most physics content is very abstract and use mathematics as a way to communicate its content. This makes physics hard to understand. Physics is thus a challenging subject for both teaching and learning. However, physics is quite important for improving workforce to have necessary knowledge and skills for compete in this knowledge-based society. Therefore in Thailand, improving quality of teaching and learning science, especially physics at all levels is essential. It is going to increase science and engineering workforces in driving Thai economy based on Thailand 4.0, a new economic model aimed at transforming our country toward a value-based economy emphasizing on innovation, technology and creativity



Figure 1 The research and redesign cycle for the development of reformed curricula and physics teaching techniques.

        Over the past four decades, findings from physics education research (PER) have been used in USA, Australia and many countries in Europe to improve teaching and learning appropriate for students’ learning style. PER results have identified that students have developed physics understanding prior to taking any physics lessons; however, these understandings are conflicted with physics principles and these are called misconceptions. These misconceptions are constructed from students’ naïve model in making sense of how things work in real everyday lives. The naïve models get more complicated and attached to student thinking and become the misconceptions. Lecture-based teaching cannot correct these misconceptions. Physics lecturers and researchers realized the significant of this problem and its long-term effect. They have started a research and redesign cycle for the development of reformed curricula. The research-based curriculum is designed based on findings from physics education research and focused on active learning approach. This approach emphasizes on students’ involvement in their own learning, hand-on activities and critical thinking during learning physics. Teaching techniques based on active learning approach provide an opportunity for students to find out limitation of their misconceptions and to be open for constructing a correct physics understanding.
         Research program on sustainable physics education reform have been conducted from 1 October, 2016 to 30 September, 2019. The program aims to conduct physics education research in order to reform physics learning and teaching in the country. The research focused on conduct fundamental physics education research on student physics understanding in pre-college and college levels. Findings are used to develop active-learning instructional materials suitable for Thai students. This includes organizing teacher workshop implementing our research-based instructional materials. As shown in Figure 1, this research program conducts systemic physics education research, so that findings can be used to develop effective teaching and curricula and leads to sustainable physics education reform in the country.
         In the first phase of establishing a Center of Excellence in Physics (FY 2008-2012) is to fund physical education research and develop personnel in this field. As a result, Thailand is equipped with numbers of physics education researchers sufficiently to run studies and to develop instructional materials based on active-learning approach. The fully operated research in physics education started in the second phase of the Center of Excellence in Physics (FY 2016-2020). The research program is a collaboration of physics education researchers all over the country. The availability of personnel results in distribution of active-learning instructional materials through teacher workshop almost all areas in the country.
         In addition, to comply with the guidelines of the 21st century learning skills supported by the Ministry of Education and the Institute for the Promotion of Science and Technology (IPST) on teaching science with STEM education, the research program is focused on research that encourages science teachers to adapt in their science teaching. This aims to help students build the 21st century learning skills, to provide continuity in the further expansion of research and to create physics instructional materials which can be applied to teaching physics in Thailand and neighboring countries in the AEC region.

This research programs is divided into four interrelated research projects as follows:

         1) Basic Physics Education Research project aims to provide knowledge about physics teaching covering all aspects—conceptual understanding, problem-solving skills, laboratory and demonstrations, mathematics in physics, and attitudes and expectations in learning physics. Results from these studies will be used to develop instructional materials using active-learning approach suitable for Thai students.

Example of research : Development of an evaluation of understanding in measurement and uncertainty. For learning with STEM education, students need to understand measurements and uncertainty for analyzing experimental data. A sample question is shown in Figure 2.


Remark : R2 or the coefficient of determination is a number that indicates the proportion of the variance in the dependent variable that is predictable from the independent variable. The value closer to 1 indicates that the equation is well fitted data points.

Figure 2 An example of question in an evaluation of understanding in measurement and uncertainty.

         2) Development of Physics Instruction Media project aims to develop physics teaching materials to meet the needs of physics teachers at the elementary level to the university level. The findings from basic research are used to develop effective physics instructional materials. In addition to make an impact in physics teacher community, a collection of works developed in the form of books and websites will be made available for physics teachers to easily access these resources.

Example of research: A tool to promote teaching with active-learning approach makes student participation in class easier. A mobile application, called Plickers helps collecting student responses in class. When an instructor asked multiple choice questions, students responded by raising banners in different ways. That represents a different option as shown in Figure 3, the instructors use Plicker application on their mobile phone to process the student responses in the room and the result immediately is shown in the form of graph. This enables teachers to know how many students understand the physics topics. The teachers can choose to further explain or teach on the next topic. Plickers can be applied to every classroom size and do not require a budget to buy any form of processing equipment.


Figure 3 Participated teachers answered and learned using Plickers.


Another example research is active-learning instructional materials in thermodynamics, fog in a bottle. This is a popular topic used as a demonstration about an adiabatic process. In this research, instructional materials have been developed to display pressure and temperature of the air inside the bottle during the fog formation process. This can be used to determine entropy change and lead to an explanation of an irreversible adiabatic process.


Figure 4 Equipment in demonstration for teaching fog in a bottle and snapshots of the bottle at different time.


         3) Capacity Enhancement for Physics Teachers project aims to achieve sustainable reform of physics education. This must start with physics teachers by focusing on teachers’ use of active-learning teaching techniques that encourage learners to construct accurate physics knowledge. Also, there is an action research to study effectiveness of teaching with active-learning approach by collaboration between researchers in this project and physics teachers. Additionally, the project emphasizes an implementation of PER knowledge and developed instructional materials in two aspects: 1) materials for physics teacher workshop and 2) learning and teaching physics resources that can be applied to teach physics in the real setting.

Example of comments from teachers attended “Mind-on Science Teaching with STEM education” workshop. Participants were 30 science teachers at the elementary and junior high school. The workshop focused on hand-on approach so that teachers could do all experiments. At the end of the workshop, teachers were given materials and equipment to use in teaching their classes as shown in Figure 5-7. Teachers attending the workshop gained both physics knowledge and good experience, as teachers have written their impression with the workshop as follows.


"I’m quite happy in learning. This is fun and I gain knowledge. There are many activities and lots of technology used. The workshop facilitator is well-informed and the activities are well organized, excited and interested in learning. This is so much fun workshop.”

"This is worth it. Attending on Saturday – Sunday, I have learned. I have worked non-stop 7 days a week. However, if there is another workshop, I will certainly attend again."

"I was very much impressed by the well-informed speakers. The workshop was so much fun and active at all time. I have gain so much knowledge and teaching techniques that can be used back at school a lot. Thanks to the trainers and the team. "

"Activities in the workshop on 27-28 August 2016 are new materials and covered in a way that teachers can excellently use with students. This workshop offered us with free knowledge, free food and free accommodation. This good service cannot be missed. I’m so glad to join this workshop. Hopefully, I will receive this good opportunity next time.”



Figure 5 Groups of teachers were assigned to design an experiment to determine appropriate variables
(such as types of liquid, types of container, types of straw) for constructing simple thermometer.



Figure 6 Groups of teachers were assigned to construct a foam cutter with a hot wire.



Figure 7 Materials and equipment were prepared to give to participated teachers to bring back and used to teach students at their schools.


        4) Development of Learning Innovation Based on STEM Education for Promoting Learning Skills in Physics for 21st Century Learners Research Project lays out its activities into 3 parts including:

               4.1) research and development of physics education focusing on introducing young population to critical or analytical thinking process in order to cope wisely with new environment of 21st century that is overwhelming with torrential stream of information,
               4.2) innovation in physics education in STEM context that integrates different fields of knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics so that young population has ability to explore and develop new frontier of knowledge and made them into practical usage, and
               4.3) human development emphasizing teaching staff since the success of STEM scheme needs to prepare infrastructures such as the instructor/facilitator as well as teaching courses for 21st century learners.



Figure 8 High school students were participating in Brain-based Learning activity of STEM
and Science training project which was focusing on development of STEM skill in order to supporting learning science.
The training was held at Satit Chirstian Wittaya School (Global English School), Nonthaburi Province on 14 December 2016
under the cooperation between the school, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University and Thailand Center of Excellence in Physics



Figure 9 High school students were participating in Food Design with Calorie Budget activity of STEM and Science Discovery for 21 st Century
Learners training project held at Faculty of Science, Mahidol University (Salaya Campus) on 29 December 2016 under the collaboration between
Faculty of Science, Mahidol University and Thailand Center of Excellence in Physics (ThEP Center).





Responsible Personnel List

First Research Project

Principal Investigator : Assistant Professor Dr.Pornrat Wattanakasiwich1)
Collaborators : Asst. Prof. Dr.Narumon Suwonjandee2), Asst. Prof. Dr.Burin Asavapibhop2), Asst. Prof. Dr.Suttida Rakkapao3), Dr.Umporn Watjana4), Dr.Decha Suppapittiyaporn5)

Second Research Project

Principal Investigator : Assistant Professor Dr.Narumon Emarat6)
Collaborators : Dr.Jintawat Tanamatayarat7), Dr.Saengkrit Klunboot8), Asst. Prof. Dr.Suchai Nopparatjamjomras9), Dr.Chaiwoot Boonyasiriwat6), Dr.Kreetha Kaewkhong5), Dr.Watcharawuth Krittinatham10)

Third Research Project

Principal Investigator : Assistant Professor Dr.Kwan Arayathanitkul6)
Collaborators : Asst. Prof. Dr.Ratchapak Chittaree6), Asst. Prof. Dr.Sura Wuttiprom11), Dr.Singha Prasitpong12), Dr.Jaradawan Huntula13), Dr.Apisit Tongchai14), Dr.Chaiyapong Ruangsuwan15), Dr.Chatchai Pawong16), Supasilp Fuengfung16)

Fourth Research Project

Principal Investigator : Assistant Professor Dr.Narin Nuttavut6)
Collaborators : Assoc. Prof. Dr.Wannapong Triampo6), Asst. Prof. Dr.Darapond Triampo17), Dr.Monamorn Precharattana9)


Affiliated Institutes : 1) Department of Physics and Materials Science, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University, 2) Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, 3) Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Prince of Songkla University, 4) Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty of Education, Ramkhamhaeng University, 5) Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Learning , Faculty of Education, Chiang Mai University, 6) Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, 7) Department of Industrial Physics and Medical Instrumentation, Faculty of Applied Science, King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok, 8) Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, 9) Institute for Innovation Learning, Mahidol University, 10) Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Payao, 11) Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Ubon Ratchathani University, 12) Division of Science and Mathematics Instruction , Faculty of Education, Thaksini University, 13) Division of Educational Science, Faculty of Education, Khon Kaen University, 14) Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST), Ministry of Education, 15) Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Khon Kaen University, 16) Division of Physics, Faculty of Science and Technology, Rajamangala University of Technology Krungthep, 17) Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University





Research Programs