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Developing Students’ Problem-Solving Capacity through the Teaching of Integrated Natural Science in Secondary Schools in Vietnam

Chu Van Tiem , Dao Thi Viet Anh, Nguyen Thi Thanh Chi
American Journal of Educational Research. 2018, 6(6), 741-748. DOI: 10.12691/education-6-6-24
Received April 21, 2018; Revised May 24, 2018; Accepted May 26, 2018

Abstract

Currently, Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training is implementing significant reforms in national general education. One of the main goals of new general education curriculum is to develop students’ capacity. This paper presents findings of the research on the development of problem-solving capacity through the use of Project-based Learning Method and Problem – based Learning Method in the teaching of integrated natural science in secondary schools.

1. Introduction

Problem-solving capacity refer to the ability of using cognition, actions, and attitudes, motives and emotions to cope with situations and problems where there are no available common procedure and solutions 1. As for learners, problem-solving capacity is an essential capacity in the learning process that can help them to deal with the fast-changing pace of life, and to meet demands for new workers in the process of integration and development. Noted in General Education Curriculum released by Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training in July 2017, problem-solving capacity and creativity are essential elements that should be built and developed for students by teaching and educational activities in secondary schools 2.

Globally, many studies on problem-solving capacity and the teaching activity that can develop problem-solving capacity have been conducted by psychologists, philosophers and educators. The concept of capacity has been long introduced to the world. According to Mulder, Weigel and Collins, the concept “capacity” was first used in Plato’s (Lysis 215 A., 380 B.C.); it then became popular, and started to be studied in the 1970s of the 20th century 3. So far, there have been a wide range of definitions of and approaches to “capacity” suggested by different organizations and individuals, such as OECD (2002) 4, Québec - Ministere de l’Education (2004) 5, F.E. Weinert 6, Howard Gardner 7, Tremblay 8, ... However, it can be easily seen that most researchers agreed that capacity refers to the ability that an individual has in combining knowledge, skills, and attitudes to successfully solve a problem in a certain context.

In Vietnam, there have been studies on the development of problem-solving capacity for students in teaching Chemistry conducted by Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy, Nguyen Thi Suu, Cao Thi Thang,… In these studies, the authors wrote about characteristics, structures, and manifestations of problem-solving capacity and also proposed some solutions in developing students’ problem-solving capacity, namely Project-based learning, and Problem-based learning. However, they still have no research on the development of problem-solving capacity for students by teaching integrated natural science in secondary schools 9, 10.

Integrated teaching is an educational concept built on the basis of positive views on teaching and learning process. This gives guidance in teaching process to build and develop students’ capacity, linking the teaching and learning process with the practice. During the learning process, not only are students provided with knowledge about the world and specific skills of each subject but they are also helped to develop their practical skills, especially the ability to combine the knowledge of different subjects to discover and tackle problems in real life. Integrated teaching is applied in developing general education curricula in many countries with well-known education in the world such as Australia, England, America, Canada, Germany, Singapore and etc. This clearly demonstrates the important roles of integrated teaching in the development of capacity for students 11, 12, 13, 14.

In conclusion, integrated teaching is considered the bridge to connect the learning process with the real world and the development of students’ capacity. In teaching subjects of science in secondary schools, integrated teaching shows considerable educational effectiveness. It is described as a time-saving, cost-saving and labor-saving teaching method. Furthermore, it helps stimulate students’ learning interests, improve their critical thinking and creativity and develop their problem-solving skills so that they can deal with more complicated problems in their real lives, trying to become more knowledgeable, energetic and creative students to meet the demands of the modern society. Although integrated teaching has been long studied and implemented in many parts of the world, it is still a new concept in Vietnam which is initially being employed in the renovation of course book and teaching curricula. In this paper, we aim to present the research findings on the development of problem-solving capacity for students by teaching integrated natural science in Vietnam’s secondary schools.

2. Content

2.1. Research Methodology

During the study, we combine the use of groups of research methods namely theory-based research, experimental research and data analysis. The procedure of the study is presented as follows:

Step 1: Collect, select and analyze the data about the situation of teaching integrated natural science to develop problem-solving capacity for students in secondary schools.

Step 2: Based on findings about the situation, suggest solutions to the development of problem-solving capacity by teaching integrated natural science in secondary schools.

Step 3: Conduct micro-teachings to evaluate the effectiveness and the feasibility of the suggested solutions in the development of problem-solving capacity by teaching integrated natural science in secondary schools.

The data of the research are collected and analyzed with the use of the software SPSS 22 (Statistical Package for Social Science). Here are specific results of the research.

2.2. Research Results
2.2.1. The Situation of the Use of integrated Natural Science Teaching to Develop Problem-solving Capacity for Students in Secondary Schools

To collect data for the research, we designed questionnaires about the development of problem-solving skills for students through integrated teaching of the natural science and then and distributed them to 250 teachers who are currently teaching subjects of Physics, Biology and Geography in 85 secondary schools in several provinces in the North, Central and South of Vietnam. The results showed that 93.6% of teachers have ever applied integrated teaching. It means that most of the surveyed teachers have had access to integrated teaching and applied it in their classrooms. Moreover, in order to evaluate the influence of the teacher's age on their integrated teaching, we compared the correlations between the age of the teachers and the effectiveness of their integrated teaching. Results are shown in Table 1.

From Table 1, it can be seen that the correlation coefficient between the two variables Age and Integrated teaching is r = – 0.265, which is an inverse and low correlation. Sig. = 0.000 < 0.05 indicates that the correlation between the two variables is statistically significant. Thus, the age of the teacher participants have almost no influence on their integrated teaching of natural sciences in secondary schools. In other words, the age is not the factor that decides whether or not the teachers applied integrated teaching in their classrooms.

Having analyzed the data about the frequency of the use of integrated teaching, we have the findings as presented in Table 2.

Table 2 shows that teachers surveyed often used integrated teaching in association with their lessons of separate subjects. This is quite appropriate to the existing curriculum of general education in Vietnam. However, this way seems to be the least effective of integrated teaching as it does not give students opportunities to deal with problematic situations where they have to combine their knowledge and skills learnt from different subjects to accomplish successfully the task assigned.

Meanwhile, teachers sometimes use interdisciplinary knowledge in integrated teaching (with 64.5%). Particularly, the application of interdisciplinary knowledge is still limited, as it is used in lessons designed for a visit or a competition. The proportion of interdisciplinary knowledge used in learning projects is very low, which indicates that the interconnection of different subjects in the teaching process is not highly regarded. This is an explicit example of the current teaching situation in Vietnam where the majority of teachers are trained to teach separate subjects while they have little access to integrated teaching through some short training courses provided by Ministry of Education and Training (with 90% of total number of secondary school teachers taking part in the training courses). Correspondingly, the implementation of integrated teaching causes many difficulties, including the lack of teacher’s knowledge and qualifications and some other external factors namely lack of facilities, time and social demands. This leads to the inadequate efficiency of integrated teaching in secondary schools.

As for the application of integrated teaching, it is necessary for teachers to combine methods of active learning to maximize students’ active involvement and creativity in their learning process. On surveying teachers, we collected their opinions on the importance of using some forms of active learning in integrated teaching to develop problem- solving capacity for students. When analyzing the data, we named the teaching methods as: Problem-based Learning method (DT5.1); Project-based Learning Method (DT5.2); “Working in Corners” Method (DT5.3); Web Quest Learning Method (DT5.4); Hands-on Method (DT5.5); Authentic and Situated Learning Method (DT5.6); and the importance levels of the use of the teaching methods are described as Very important (1); Important (2); Quite important (3); Little Important (4); Not important at all (5). The results are illustrated in Table 3.

By looking at Table 3, it can be seen that teachers regard Problem-based Learning (mean = 1.3176), Project-based Learning (mean = 1.6538) and Authentic and Situated Learning (mean = 1.3120) are important in integrated teaching to develop students’ problem solving skills. These are active learning methods that enable the connection between student’s theory learning and the practice. Hence, it is really necessary to apply these teaching methods in the teaching of integrated natural science to develop problem-solving capacity for students in secondary schools 15.


2.2.2. The Application of Project-based Learning and Problem-based Learning Methods into the Teaching of Integrated Natural Science to Develop Problem-solving Skills for students in Secondary Schools

We have developed 11 topics from the integration of natural science subjects currently taught at secondary schools, including Atomic, chemical elements, compounds and molecules; The air around us; Water – A Resource for Life; Acid and Base in our life; Chemical fertilizers with Plants and soil environment; Carbon and carbon compounds – Climate Change; Methane and Biogas - The Green Energy; Ethyl alcohol and Socio-economic Issues; Fat and human’s health; Protein – The Source of Life; Polime and the Recycling Festival. In addition, we combine the Problem-based Learning Method and Project-based Learning Method with other active learning methods and techniques to teach some modules of integrated teaching with the aim of developing problem-solving skills for students in secondary schools. Below are some topic-based teaching activities we designed:

Example 1: Applying Problem-based Learning Method in teaching the module: “The importance of chemical elements to the plants, and different types of chemical fertilizers” in the integrated topic “Chemical fertilizers with the plants and soil environment”

Example 2: Apply Project-based Learning Method to teach the module “Exploiting and using water resources” in the topic “Water – A Resource of life”


2.2.3. The Evaluation of the Development of Problem-Solving Capacity by the Teaching of Integrated Natural Science for Students in Secondary Schools

The Teaching Experiment Method

In each school of research, we select two classes in the same grade (grade 8 or grade 9): Experimental Group and Controlled Group. The pair of Experimental Group (EG) and Controlled Group (EG) is selected based on the same criteria, so they are considered to have the same starting point (the same learning outcomes). Therefore, to investigate the effects of the solutions, we designed tests on Experimental Group and Controlled Group. The details of teaching experiments are illustrated in Table 4.

To carry out teaching experiments, we followed the steps below:

Step 1: Discuss with the teacher in charge about the teaching content, methods, time and procedure of teaching experiments

- For Experimental Group: Teacher follows the proposed teaching plan of integrated topics collected from combining subjects of natural science

- For Controlled Group: Teacher follows the existing teaching plan suggested by Ministry of Education and Training.

Step 2: Conduct teaching activities to the Experimental Group and Controlled Group. After each topic, we discuss with the teachers in charge and student participants to draw on experience, to make some changes on the content and the teaching plan of integrated topics for a greater success of the next teaching experiments.

Step 3: Collect and analyze data

During teaching experiments, we conducted a 45-minute test after finishing each integrated topic. These tests follow the same rules: taken from the same set of tests, have the same marking scale, and conducted in Experimental Group and Controlled Group of the same teacher. We also combined the tests with other forms of assessment in the proposed toolkit to evaluate students’ problem-solving capacity by the teaching of integrated natural science in secondary schools 16.

Research results on the development of students’ problem-solving capacity through the teaching of integrated natural science in secondary schools:

a) Results from observation checklist

Having collected data on the development of students’ problem-solving capacity through teacher’s observation checklist, we conducted a data analysis. In each criterion (from Criterion 1 to Criterion 10), we conducted a survey on the students’ levels of achievement in the set of evaluation criteria for both Experimental Group and Controlled Group. We then determined the standard deviation, the difference of the means between the Experimental Group and Controlled Group, and make a comparison of these means by using T-test, to determine whether or not the difference in the mean in each criterion for the Experimental Group and Controlled Group is statistically significant.

Below are the results of the Criterion 1 based on the data collected from the observation checklist (Table 5 and Table 6).

Table 5 shows that the standard deviation of the Experimental Group (1.47) is lower than that of Controlled Group (1.92). This means that the distribution of learning outcomes around the mean of Experimental Group is smaller than that of Controlled Group. In other words, the learning outcomes of the Experimental Group are more equal than those of Controlled Group.

According to Table 6, the paired difference of means of Experimental Group and Controlled Group is 0.80 > 0, and Sig.(2-tailed) = 0.001 < 0.05, hence, it can be concluded that the results achieved in the Criterion 1 of Experimental Group are higher than those of Controlled Group.

Similarly, we conducted analysis of the collected data for the other criteria for Experimental Group and Controlled Group in each grade with 2 rounds of experiments. Next, we compared the means of the total criteria for Experimental Group and Controlled Group. The final results are presented in Table 7, Table 8, Table 9 and Table 10.

As can be seen in Table 7 and Table 8, in each criterion (1-10): the standard deviation of Experimental Group is smaller than that of Controlled Group, the difference of means between the two groups is >0 and Sig. is < 0.05. Hence, it can be said that the results achieved in each criterion of the Experimental Group are higher than those of Controlled Group. The biggest differences between these group can be found in the Criterion 1 (Identify the learning goals and learning tasks), Criterion 3 (Collect and combine knowledge of different subjects to solve the problem), Criterion 7 (Complete the project and report project findings) and Criterion 10 (Adjust and apply gained knowledge into father studies). This can be explained by the fact that during the learning process, the Experimental Group often organized some activities to deal with the problem in combination with the practice. In some modules, students of this group conducted group work to determine the learning goals, learning tasks and then collect and combine gained knowledge of different subjects to solve the problem, prepare and report research findings. On the other hand, students, after finishing the project, are assigned the similar or new learning tasks so that they can apply the gained knowledge for further studies.

Besides, the results in Table 8 and Table 10 show that the difference of means of Experimental Group and Controlled Group is > 0, and Sig. is < 0.05. This means that this difference is statistically significant. Furthermore, the standard deviation of Experimental Group is lower than that of Controlled Group, indicating that the learning outcomes of Experimental Group are more equal than those of Controlled Group. As a result, it can be concluded that results about the development of problem-solving capacity for Experimental Group are higher those of Controlled Group. The ES on the two grades is about 0.8 ≤ ES ≤ 1.0, which reveals that the solution shows its effectiveness.

b) Test results

Having collected data on the test results, we analyzed the data and then presented the results on the statistical parameters of the test in Table 11 and Table 12.

Comments: As can be seen in Table 11 and Table 12, it can be seen that the difference of means between Experimental and Controlled Group is > 0, Sig. is < 0.05, which indicates that the difference of means is statistically significant. Moreover, the standard deviation of the Experimental Group is smaller than that of the Controlled Group. As a result, it can be concluded that the test results of the Experimental Group are higher than those of the Controlled Group, or that the solution suggested has shown its effectiveness. The ES is determined through tests for grade 8 and 9 are 0.82 and 0.80, respectively, indicating that the solution shows a positive influence during teaching experiments.

3. Conclusion

After the analysis of the data collected from teaching experiements the findings reveal that the teaching of integrated natural science helps improve problem-solving skills for students in secondary schools. The application of the integrated natural science teaching in Vietnam is now increasingly significant and meaningful. Integrated teachings enables students to develop their ability in combining knowledge and skills learnt from different subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geography) or any other aspects of learning to complete their learning tasks and to deal with problems arisen in the real life. As a result, students can learn how to adapt to considerable changes of the society and to meet the labor demands for the country’s integration and modernization.

References

[1]  Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training – Conference Proceedings, 2014, Developing general education curriculum in light of students’ competence development, Hanoi.
In article      
 
[2]  Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training, 2017, New General Education Curriculum, Hanoi.
In article      
 
[3]  Mulder, M.; Weigel; T.& Collins, K, 2006. The concept of competence in the development of vocational education and training in selected EU member states - a critical analysis, Journal of Vocational Education and training.
In article      View Article
 
[4]  OECD, 2002, Definition and selection of Competencies: Theoretical and Conceptual Foundation, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/47/61/35070367.pdf.
In article      View Article
 
[5]  Canada Ministry of Education and Training, 2004, Secondary Education Curriculum of Québec.
In article      
 
[6]  Weiner.F.E, 2001, Comparative performance measurement in schools.
In article      
 
[7]  Howard Gardner, 1983, Frames of Mind (The Theory of multiplied intelligences), New York, Basic books.
In article      View Article
 
[8]  DeSeCo, 2002, Education - Lifelong Learning and the Knowledge Economy: Key Competencies for the Knowledge Society. In: Proceedings of the DeseCo Symposium, Stuttgart, October 10-11, 2002, Stuttgart.
In article      
 
[9]  Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy, Nguyen Thi Suu, Vu Quoc Trung, 2016, Applying Project-based Learning Method in teaching the module of Organic Chemistry to develop problem-solving capacity for grade-eleven students in the northern mountainous areas of Vietnam, HNUE Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 61(1), 22-29.
In article      
 
[10]  Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy, 2016, Applying Project-based Learning Method in teaching the module of Organic Chemistry to develop problem-solving capacity for high school students in the northern mountainous areas of Vietnam, Doctoral Dissertation in Education, Hanoi National University of Education.
In article      
 
[11]  Nguyen Van Bien, 2015, Procedure of developing topics of integrated natural science, Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 60(2), 61-66.
In article      
 
[12]  Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, Cao Thi Thang, 2000, The initial steps of applying integrated natural and social science in secondary schools, Report of National Scientific Project, Vietnam Academy of Educational Science.
In article      
 
[13]  Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, Cao Thi Thang, 2001, A study on the initial steps of applying teaching materials of integrated natural and social science in secondary schools, Report of National Scientific Project, Code B98-49-65, Vietnam Academy of Educational Science.
In article      
 
[14]  Cao Thi Thang, 2011, Applying perspective of integrated teaching into the development of general education curriculum after the year of 2015, Report of National Scientific Project, Code B2008-37-60, Vietnam Academy of Educational Science.
In article      
 
[15]  Chu Van Tiem, Dao Thi Viet Anh, 2017, The situation of developing students’ problem-solving capacity by teaching integrated natural science in secondary schools, HNUE Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 62(1), 65-75.
In article      
 
[16]  Chu Van Tiem, Dao Thi Viet Anh, 2017. Manifestations and evaluation tools for students’ problem-solving capacity by teaching integrated natural science in secondary schools, HNUE Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 62(4), 59-68.
In article      
 

Published with license by Science and Education Publishing, Copyright © 2018 Chu Van Tiem, Dao Thi Viet Anh and Nguyen Thi Thanh Chi

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite this article:

Normal Style
Chu Van Tiem, Dao Thi Viet Anh, Nguyen Thi Thanh Chi. Developing Students’ Problem-Solving Capacity through the Teaching of Integrated Natural Science in Secondary Schools in Vietnam. American Journal of Educational Research. Vol. 6, No. 6, 2018, pp 741-748. http://pubs.sciepub.com/education/6/6/24
MLA Style
Tiem, Chu Van, Dao Thi Viet Anh, and Nguyen Thi Thanh Chi. "Developing Students’ Problem-Solving Capacity through the Teaching of Integrated Natural Science in Secondary Schools in Vietnam." American Journal of Educational Research 6.6 (2018): 741-748.
APA Style
Tiem, C. V. , Anh, D. T. V. , & Chi, N. T. T. (2018). Developing Students’ Problem-Solving Capacity through the Teaching of Integrated Natural Science in Secondary Schools in Vietnam. American Journal of Educational Research, 6(6), 741-748.
Chicago Style
Tiem, Chu Van, Dao Thi Viet Anh, and Nguyen Thi Thanh Chi. "Developing Students’ Problem-Solving Capacity through the Teaching of Integrated Natural Science in Secondary Schools in Vietnam." American Journal of Educational Research 6, no. 6 (2018): 741-748.
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  • Table 3. Teachers’ opinions on the importance of using some active learning methods in integrated teaching to develop students’ problem-solving capacity
  • Activity 2: Instruct students to perform the learning tasks, discuss and find out the solutions to the problem stated (45 minutes)
  • Activity 3: Discuss, and defend the project findings and apply the gained knowledge for further studies (25 minutes)
  • Table 5. Standard deviation of students’ achievement in Criterion 1 for Experimental Group and Controlled Group
  • Table 7. Summary of results in the criteria on the evaluation of students’ problem-solving capacity through data collected from observation checklist – Grade 8 (EG: 250 students; CG: 245 students)
  • Table 8. Comparison of the mean values of criteria on the evaluation of students’ problem-solving capacity through data collected from the observation checklist - Grade 8
  • Table 9. Summary of results in the criteria on the evaluation of students’ problem-solving capacity through data collected from observation checklist – Grade 9 (EG: 280 students; CG: 275 students)
  • Table 10. Comparison of the mean values of criteria on the evaluation of students’ problem-solving capacity through data collected from the observation checklist - Grade 9
[1]  Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training – Conference Proceedings, 2014, Developing general education curriculum in light of students’ competence development, Hanoi.
In article      
 
[2]  Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training, 2017, New General Education Curriculum, Hanoi.
In article      
 
[3]  Mulder, M.; Weigel; T.& Collins, K, 2006. The concept of competence in the development of vocational education and training in selected EU member states - a critical analysis, Journal of Vocational Education and training.
In article      View Article
 
[4]  OECD, 2002, Definition and selection of Competencies: Theoretical and Conceptual Foundation, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/47/61/35070367.pdf.
In article      View Article
 
[5]  Canada Ministry of Education and Training, 2004, Secondary Education Curriculum of Québec.
In article      
 
[6]  Weiner.F.E, 2001, Comparative performance measurement in schools.
In article      
 
[7]  Howard Gardner, 1983, Frames of Mind (The Theory of multiplied intelligences), New York, Basic books.
In article      View Article
 
[8]  DeSeCo, 2002, Education - Lifelong Learning and the Knowledge Economy: Key Competencies for the Knowledge Society. In: Proceedings of the DeseCo Symposium, Stuttgart, October 10-11, 2002, Stuttgart.
In article      
 
[9]  Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy, Nguyen Thi Suu, Vu Quoc Trung, 2016, Applying Project-based Learning Method in teaching the module of Organic Chemistry to develop problem-solving capacity for grade-eleven students in the northern mountainous areas of Vietnam, HNUE Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 61(1), 22-29.
In article      
 
[10]  Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy, 2016, Applying Project-based Learning Method in teaching the module of Organic Chemistry to develop problem-solving capacity for high school students in the northern mountainous areas of Vietnam, Doctoral Dissertation in Education, Hanoi National University of Education.
In article      
 
[11]  Nguyen Van Bien, 2015, Procedure of developing topics of integrated natural science, Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 60(2), 61-66.
In article      
 
[12]  Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, Cao Thi Thang, 2000, The initial steps of applying integrated natural and social science in secondary schools, Report of National Scientific Project, Vietnam Academy of Educational Science.
In article      
 
[13]  Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, Cao Thi Thang, 2001, A study on the initial steps of applying teaching materials of integrated natural and social science in secondary schools, Report of National Scientific Project, Code B98-49-65, Vietnam Academy of Educational Science.
In article      
 
[14]  Cao Thi Thang, 2011, Applying perspective of integrated teaching into the development of general education curriculum after the year of 2015, Report of National Scientific Project, Code B2008-37-60, Vietnam Academy of Educational Science.
In article      
 
[15]  Chu Van Tiem, Dao Thi Viet Anh, 2017, The situation of developing students’ problem-solving capacity by teaching integrated natural science in secondary schools, HNUE Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 62(1), 65-75.
In article      
 
[16]  Chu Van Tiem, Dao Thi Viet Anh, 2017. Manifestations and evaluation tools for students’ problem-solving capacity by teaching integrated natural science in secondary schools, HNUE Journal of Science, Hanoi National University of Education, 62(4), 59-68.
In article