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The Effectiveness of Problem-Based Learning on Teaching the First Law of Thermodynamics


Research in Science & Technological Education Volume 29, Number 3, ISSN 0263-5143


Background: Problem-based learning (PBL) is a teaching approach working in cooperation with self-learning and involving research to solve real problems. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but that energy is conserved. Students had difficulty learning or misconceptions about this law. This study is related to the teaching of the first law of thermodynamics within a PBL environment. Purpose: This study examined the effectiveness of PBL on candidate science teachers' understanding of the first law of thermodynamics and their science process skills. This study also examined their opinions about PBL. Sample: The sample consists of 48 third-grade university students from the Department of Science Education in one of the public universities in Turkey. Design and methods: A one-group pretest-posttest experimental design was used. Data collection tools included the Achievement Test, Science Process Skill Test, Constructivist Learning Environment Survey and an interview with open-ended questions. Paired samples t-test was conducted to examine differences in pre/post tests. Results: The PBL approach has a positive effect on the students' learning abilities and science process skills. The students thought that the PBL environment supports effective and permanent learning, and self-learning planning skills. On the other hand, some students think that the limited time and unfamiliarity of the approach impede learning. Conclusions: The PBL is an active learning approach supporting students in the process of learning. But there are still many practical disadvantages that could reduce the effectiveness of the PBL. To prevent the alienation of the students, simple PBL activities should be applied from the primary school level. In order to overcome time limitations, education researchers should examine short-term and effective PBL activities. (Contains 5 tables.)


Tatar, E. & Oktay, M. (2011). The Effectiveness of Problem-Based Learning on Teaching the First Law of Thermodynamics. Research in Science & Technological Education, 29(3), 315-332. Retrieved April 22, 2019 from .

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