An excited Dr Jayanthi Siva Kumaree Maharaj graduated with her PhD in Education for research that explored Grade 12 learners’ understandings of, and problem-solving approaches to Work-Energy-Power in Physical Sciences in high schools.
‘Work-Energy-Power resources are now a scarce commodity in the global and Southern African states and knowledge about their constituents, production and application becomes far more relevant in our daily lives. There is also ongoing competition regarding ownership of Work-Energy-Power resources globally,’ explained Maharaj, adding that this makes her research important in the school curriculum. ‘All life needs energy to exist. How well the learners understand and solve problems involving this topic has a positive impact on the way the country competes on the international stage’.
A large part of Maharaj’s study involved listening to the verbalised thinking of participants which she described as ‘taking a peek into the thinking of participants.’ She found that although all learners in the study did display scientifically correct understandings of some of the concepts involving Work-Energy-Power in certain contexts, they also displayed alternative conceptions regarding this topic. Overall, she identified 14 alternative conceptions displayed by learners and seven problem solving approaches pursued by learners.
‘The patterns of variation espoused in Variation Theory provided explanations for the prevalence of alternative conceptions and problem-solving difficulties. The study deepens our knowledge about learners’ difficulties with this topic and provides a basis for improving learning and teaching,’ she said.
Maharaj is grateful to her family, friends and supervisor, Professor Nadaraj Govender who believed in her and her capabilities. ‘He constantly encouraged me to go beyond the personal challenges that I faced and to complete my studies.’
She dedicated her PhD to her late parents, husband as well as participants who welcomed her into their school and deepest thoughts about Physical Sciences. ‘This study was successful because of everybody’s unbridled cooperation,’ she said.