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Difficulties Faced by College Students in Introductory Physics: A Case Study
Elmehdi H. M, Pistorius S and Suleiman, B. M.
Deptartment of Applied Physics, College of Sciences, University of Sharjah,
In a survey conducted at the University of Sharjah (UoS) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 86% of respondents from among first-year students reported that Introductory Physics was the most difficult subject they were taking. This high percentage is not limited to students at the University of Sharjah. In fact, it is internationally perceived that introductory physics is the subject college students fear the most. What is alarming is that more than 80% of the students who said that Introductory Physics was difficult believed that it had no relevance to their respective fields. This is often offered as a reason for the lower than average passing percentages obtained in Introductory Physics. Some post secondary institutions in the Middle East went so far as proposing the reduction of the number of physics courses in their curricula or cutting down on the course content in response to continuous complaints from students as well as parents. The results of our survey will be examined with the aim of subjectively discussing the factors contributing to the struggle students have with Introductory Physics. These include inherent problems, the role of mathematical presentations of physical concepts, presentation of the subject matter, the students’ study habits and assessment tools. After that, we highlight the importance of physics through various examples of applications in the respective fields in which Physics plays an integral part in understanding many functions and processes. Finally, we propose some solutions, which we believe will assist students in learning some of seemingly difficult topics, including suggestions to make physical concepts easier and more enjoyable, without compromising the quality or the quantity of the course content.