Physical Sciences teacher Mr Mpumelelo Gumede graduated with a Masters in Education degree for research he feels ‘will give physical sciences learners the opportunity to explore a concept mapping learning strategy in order to overcome their shallow understanding of the key concepts in electric circuits’.
Gumede, who dedicated his degree to his late father, believes his research has the potential to bring about change in the way science teachers help learners overcome difficulties in the study of electric circuits while also raising awareness of the potential alternative conceptions in electric circuits that learners might bring to the classroom.
Gumede’s passion for teaching and the physical sciences helped learner Mr Bhekamandaba Makhonza achieve full marks for Physical Science in matric last year and become one of the top achievers in South Africa.
‘Seeing my learners enjoying and developing themselves during collaborative construction of their concept maps is definitely one of the highlights of my research, because I often think they do not like my subject that much. I realised I was not giving them enough opportunities in the classroom to learn in an environment where every scientific idea is acceptable no matter how odd it may be,’ he said.
Gumede’s study showed that the 20 Grade 11 Physical Sciences learners who participated in the research had an understanding of the relationships between key concepts in electric circuits. These relationships are important aspects of the Ohm’s Law principle. But what was missing from their understanding was an in-depth explanation of why the circuit behaved in a particular way.
Learners were often able to state these relationships but could not elaborate any further than just providing a mathematical model of them. ‘Collaborative concept mapping assisted a great deal in developing learners’ conceptual understanding and bridging knowledge gaps under Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) theoretical framing,’ said Gumede.
‘Improving concept-specific teaching and enabling constructive learning strategies will achieve positive results. This study could help science teachers improve their practice by proposing an alternative topic-specific instructional strategy such as collaborative concept mapping, which helps learners construct knowledge, thus removing their focus from merely trying to pass an examination.’
Gumede plans to pursue his PhD and to continue developing a love for physical sciences among his learners.
He thanked his family, friends and supervisor Dr Lebala Kolobe for their support.