The development and testing of computer-aided teaching tools - addressing the conceptual and practical difficulties experienced by first year physics students.
There has been a great deal of research, both locally and abroad, conducted on the learning practices of students at school and at tertiary levels. In an attempt at improving the status of education, some educators have looked towards the use of computer-aided learning tools as a possible panacea for the discrepancy between what is being learnt and what is being taught in traditional educational environments. The Physics Undergraduate Learning Programme (PULP), is a research-based instructional software package that tests the effectiveness of computers in physics education. The program was specifically designed to identify and address the difficulties experienced by first year introductory physics students enrolled at the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at the University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg). The research is based on an iterative process of assessment through tests and interviews, and subsequent modifications to the program. The results obtained from these methods of investigation are reported and this dissertation concludes with a discussion on the usefulness and limitations ofcomputers in physics education.