Education Project Topics

Misconception in Physics in Senior Secondary Schools

Misconception in Physics in Senior Secondary Schools


Misconception in Physics in Senior Secondary Schools

Content Structure of Misconception in Physics in Senior Secondary Schools

  • The abstract contains the research problem, the objectives, methodology, results, and recommendations
  • Chapter one of this thesis or project materials contains the background to the study, the research problem, the research questions, research objectives, research hypotheses, significance of the study, the scope of the study, organization of the study, and the operational definition of terms.
  • Chapter two contains relevant literature on the issue under investigation. The chapter is divided into five parts which are the conceptual review, theoretical review, empirical review, conceptual framework, and gaps in research
  • Chapter three contains the research design, study area, population, sample size and sampling technique, validity, reliability, source of data, operationalization of variables, research models, and data analysis method
  • Chapter four contains the data analysis and the discussion of the findings
  • Chapter five contains the summary of findings, conclusions, recommendations, contributions to knowledge, and recommendations for further studies.
  • References: The references are in APA
  • Questionnaire.

Abstract of Misconception in Physics in Senior Secondary Schools

This study investigated the senior secondary school student’s misconceptions in Physics in various Local Government Area of Lagos state. The major misconceptions were outlined and the hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance using gender, age and cultural as moderator variable. Three hundred (300) SSS III Physics students were randomly selected from Eight (8) Senior Secondary Schools purposively selected from four (4) various Local Government Area of Lagos which constituted the sample of the study. Fifty (50) items test questions on misconception of students in Physics which was the instruments used in collecting data. The instruments were subjected to face, content and empirical validations. The data collected were analyzed using Pearson moment correlation, T-test. The results of the study showed a positive significant relationship between students ‘gender and misconception in physics. Other findings of the study are: there was significant relationship between the cultural background of student and misconception in Physics. There was no significant relationship between the students’ age and misconception in physics. The researcher recommended that for students’ understanding of basic concepts in Physics, attention should be focused on enhancing the students’ understanding by providing adequate competent teachers and environmental factors; since students cultural background is an important variable in achievement.

Key words: Students, Misconception, Achievement, Physics.




Title Page                                                                                                  i

Approval page                                                                                          ii

Dedication                                                                                                 iii

Acknowledgement                                                                                   iv


1.1             Background of the Study                                                                    1-5

1.2           Problems of teaching physics in Nigeria secondary school                  6-7

1.3           Student performances in physics                                                        7-8

1.4           Statement of the Problem                                                                   8

1.5           Purpose of Study                                                                               9

1.6           Research Question                                                                             9

1.7           Research Hypotheses                                                                         10

1.8           Significance of Study                                                                      10-11

1.9             Scope of Study                                                                                  11

1.10        Definition of Terminologies                                                               1-12


2.0    Literature Review                                                                               13

2.1    Misconceptions of Student in Physics                                               14-15

2.2    Determination of the Relationship of Gender and Misconception of Students in Physics                                                    15-17

2.3    Relationship Between Student’s Cultural Background and Misconception of Physics                            


TABLE 2.5.1  Statistics of physics student’s performance in WAEC

TABLE 4.2        Independent Sample t-test of male and female students’ misconception in physics

TABLE 4.2bMisconception of male and female students in physics

TABLE 4.3Correlation of the relationship between cultural background and students’ Misconception in physics

TABLE 4.3bMisconception of student in physics from various cultural backgrounds

TABLE 4.4    Correlation of the relationship between students’ age and misconception of Students in physics

Chapter One of  Misconception in Physics in Senior Secondary Schools



The major concepts which underline and unify the topics in the SSS physics curriculum content are motion and energy. Relevance of the topics to society in terms of application is stressed throughout. Only the topics which are directly derivable from the concepts and their sub concepts were selected. Generally, the approach in the curriculum is to treat the topics under a unifying concept in a general form and provide some elaboration in the applications in order to advocate relevance and use copious illustration to aid understanding.

Research on physics learning has revealed that students come to their physics course with already ideas about the world that differ from accepted scientific ideas. This initial common sense will be used to refer to misconception. There is a research which showed that it is difficult for students to change their initial common sense (McDermott,1990) because their own believes are grounded in long personal experience. Changing initial ideas of students is often difficult. It is necessary to connect the new knowledge with their existing knowledge structure.

The effectiveness of introductory physics instruction is important to improve student attitudes toward an understanding of scientific process; for example, improve ability in quantitative problem solving, improve students’ laboratory skill, improve students’ understanding of physics concepts, and reasoning skill. Some scientific explanation of physical phenomena often differs from the intuitive ideas or existing conceptual structures. How physics is learned and designing more effective approaches to teach physics will be our ultimate goal.

One of difficult topics in teaching physics is electricity and magnetism students often have difficulty in understanding electricity and magnetism because it is the abstract nature of the subject which is difficult to visualize and the mathematical relationships can be complex. Electricity and magnetism is seen as a central area of physics curricula at all level of education, primary, secondary and tertiary. Students’ understanding of concept in electricity and magnetism has not been investigated in as great detail as in mechanics. Some research showed that teaching methods can be developed to change students’ ideas in electricity and magnetism with scientific model like conceptual conflict and analogies (Driver et al.1994).

Over the last 20 years, physics education research has revealed that students already have a number of ideas about how physical systems behave even before they start to study physics. In many cases these ideas often called alternative conceptions or common sense science differ from accepted scientific ideas. Other research has shown that it is difficult for students to change their initial ideas.

The development and extensive use of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) conceptual test concerning some basic kinematics and Newton’s three laws has raised the consciousness of many physics teachers about the effectiveness of traditional education. Many physics instructors have expressed an interest in assessing students’ knowledge of electricity and magnetism. However, developing an instrument to assess students’ ideas in electricity and magnetism is a very different task than development of the FCI.

Student’s preconceptions in science have since aroused science educators’ interest for over 30years because of the principle idea of constructivist learning theory, which was stated as “students come to the learning environment with the preconceptions, which were formed during their interactions within physical and social environment and those preconceptions affect learning” (Pfundt and Duit, 2006). The main interest of studies focus on those preconceptions of which especially contradict with scientific knowledge and create problems in learning. In this study, the notion of misconception was used for such preconceptions. Research carried out resulted with some findings about the main features of misconceptions. These findings are listed below (Driver and Bell, 1986; Driver, 1989; Mutimucuio, 1998; Widodo et al., 2002; Tyler, 2002).

•        Misconceptions of students who have different culture, religion and language arefrequently similar to each other.

•        Misconceptions may deeply penetrate into students’ minds and resist to change.

•        Everyday language, culture and religion can cause the formation of misconceptions.

•    Misconceptions can be parallel to the explanations made by earlier scientists in interpreting scientific phenomena.

Misconceptions may develop after a formal teaching. Many researchers came up with the same findings during the investigation of students’ misconceptions about simple electric circuits (Osborne, 1983; Cohen at al., 1982; Tiberghien, 1983; Shipstone, 1984; Kärrqvist, 1985; Shipstone et al., 1988; McDermott and Shafer, 1992; Barges et al., 1999; Lee and Law, 2001; Küçüközer, 2003).

The most frequently encountered findings are given below:

• The concepts of current, energy and potential difference are not respected as different concepts and used interchangeably with each other.

• Current is consumed by circuit components.

• Current comes out from the (+) pole of the battery and enters to the bulb where it is consumed to light the bulb which is not affected by the second wire connected between the (-) pole and itself.

Read Too:  Combined and Relative Influence of Reflective Thinking Factor and Student Academic Achievement

• Current comes out from the both poles of the battery and clashes in the bulb to light it.

• Current is divided equally in each line of the parallel circuits.

.Positively charged object have gained protons, rather than being deficient in electron.

• A change before the bulb affects the brightness of the bulb in circuit connected in series but the same bulb is not affect by change in anywhere of the circuit after the bulb.

• Batteries are constant current sources.

Misconceptions outlined above were reported in studies conducted with students in different countries and with different age groups. Shipstone et al.’s (1988) study is an important research, which summarizes that students in five European countries also have similar misconceptions about simple electric circuits.

The misconception of “current is consumed by circuit components” which is listed above is almost reported in all studies about electric circuits. Students sometimes may have misconceptions stemming from the use of everyday language (Gilbert et al., 1982; Leach and Scott, 2003). Gilbert et al. (1982)

The misconception of senior secondary student in physics can also be linked to the teacher’s methods of imparting and evaluating physics in classrooms, the teacher’s method of imparting and evaluating physics is a major cause of misconception among senior secondary school student in Nigeria.


A number of deep-rooted issues has been identified which are peculiar to physics subject in senior secondary schools and needs to be addressed. These problems, common to senior secondary schools are:

  1. Inadequacy of materials and personnel with respect to teaching the subject.
  2.  Lack of laboratories and Equipment
  3. Inability of the teachers to impact the subject to the student s, which might be due tothe problem of teachers’ qualification and effectiveness.
  4. The overloading of West African examination council syllabus.
  5. Shortages in the supply of physics teachers and poor environments in which physics practical are taught.
  6. The ability of this subject to inspire and interest pupils, particularly girls; and other factors such as careers advice which affect pupils’ desire to study physics at higher levels.
  7. The inflexibility, irrelevance and repetitiveness of the curriculum;
  8. The lack of engagement in debate and quiz in this subject
  9. The limitations on practical and fieldwork
  10. The low educational value of coursework
  11. Non implementation of ICT in science teaching.
  12. The shortage of qualified science teachers is a well-known      problem. The increasing demand for science graduates in other more lucrative sectors and the decreasing number of graduates in these subjects means that we are caught in a seemingly endless cycle of decline in specialist science teachers
  13. Insufficient account taken of pupils’ previous learning and attainment, including what they had already learned in primary school;
  14. Some tasks set for pupils were either too difficult for them or insufficiently challenging
  15. Insufficiently high teacher expectations of the pace of pupils’ learning and of the quality of presentation of their written work.


Performances of students at the senior secondary school level have been the concern of government and parents. The performance of student in physics has deteriorated for the past few decades due to certain factors, which are:

  • Teacher’s deficiency in various contents they teach which affect the quality of learning and performance of the student.
  • The effects of laboratory facilities and resources also have a major influence on the performance of students in physics at this level.
  • Student’s interest and achievement in Physics at secondary school level lie within the teacher and students’ relationship in a given subject.
  • Girls and women may be regarded as late arrivals in the scene of science in Nigeria. There is a significant differences in performance of male and female students in Physics
  • Historically, Physics has been taught at the high school and college level primarily by the lecture method together with laboratory exercise aimed at verifying concepts taught.


The issue of misconception in physics in senior secondary schools is a major problem that befalls the educational sector.

Yearly, students record massive failure in physics especially in the West African secondary school certificate exam (WASSCE) and the newly introduced National Examination Council(NECO) Examination.

New effective methods of teaching and learning physics needs to be designed to curb misconception of students in physics and to improve the academic achievement of students in senior secondary schools.

Recognizing effective method of teaching and learning, if considered can improve the level of academic achievement of students in senior secondary schools physics. The study is aimed at identifying effects of these methods on academic performance of students and also to determine the extent to which the methods can modify or change students’ academic performance in physics.


The general focus point of this research study is to make an inquiry into senior secondary school misconception in physics. However, this study is set out to achieve certain objectives, which is the main purpose why this research work is embarked upon. The purpose of the study are as follows;

  1.   To outline the major misconceptions of student in physics.
  2.   To determine the difference between misconception of male students in physics and female student in physics.
  3.     To determine if the misconception of student in physics is dependent on student cultural background.
  4.   To determine the relationship of age and misconceptions of students in physics.


  1.  What are the major misconceptions of students in physics?
  2. Is there difference between the misconception of male and female students in physics?
  3. What is the relationship between the misconceptions of students’ in physics and their cultural background?
  4. What is the relationship of age and students’ misconception in physics?



H01: There is no significant difference between the misconceptions of male and female students in physics.


H02: There is no significant relationship between cultural background and misconceptions of students in physics.


H03: There is no significant relationship between student’s age and misconceptions in physics.


The significances of this study cannot be under estimated or over emphasized. Firstly, this study tends add to the body of general knowledge and existing research of the subject inquiry. Secondly, this study emphasizes the urgent need to vigorously examine the misconceptions of senior secondary school students in science (physics). This will not only help to curb the general misconceptions in senior secondary school, it will also enhance and improve the student knowledge and skills in the area of science (physics) as well as related subjects. Furthermore, this study stresses the need to implement the national policies that will aid the training of specialized and qualified teachers in the area of science development in Nigeria. This will further strengthen and increase the nation’s status in terms of science development within the global world as well as enhance the adoption of scientific application in all works of life socially, politically and economically.


The scope of study will cover senior secondary school student, specifically senior secondary students within the various Local Government Area of Lagos State. This study is limited to senior secondary students only due to speculated and limited time frame this study is expected to be carried out.


Terms and concepts are very central to the understanding of any scientific research. More so, it is imperative to give operational definitions that will be used for the study. This will help make the study explicit and at the same time give the reader a thorough understanding of the central terms concept used in the study.

SCIENCE: is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanation prediction about the universe.

MISCONCEPTION: a view or opinion that is incorrect based on faulty thinking or understanding.

LEARNING: Is a process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preference and may involve synthesizing different types of information (Sandman et al, 2000). For the purpose of this study learning will be restricted to the development of science.

SSS: senior secondary schools.

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