PROBLEM FACING TEACHING AND LEARNING OF PHYSICS LABORATORY PRACTICAL IN SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL - UNIPROJECTS

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PROBLEM FACING TEACHING AND LEARNING OF PHYSICS LABORATORY PRACTICAL IN SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL



   The problems of teaching Physics practical in Nigeria which really affect the performance of students in West African School certificate Examination (WAESCE). The results of research showed that the problems of teaching Physics practical are lack of good laboratory, student attitudes towards the Physics practical, environmental situation, school management and inadequate environments. To cope with teaming population of the students offering Physics practical.
          Herbert (1999) suggested that Physics education should be introduced to educate primary and secondary children and train more experts for the improvement of the teaching of Physics practical.
          Many Students do not well in the examination due to lack of background knowledge in Physics practical which carry fifty percent (50%) of the marks obtainable.
          Lawrence (2000) suggested that school management should involve their teachers in the drawing up of the syllabus, scheme of work and time – table. This is very important in the case of Physics practical that involves field work. Proper timing of collection of specimen and conducing practical works were schedule for dry season.
          Akande (1999) emphasize the importance of specimen when teaching Physics practical. The more teachers is able to generate strong motivation in his Students, the better they acquired more knowledge.  He also pointed out the effect of lack of specimen which contributed to the poor performance of students in teaching of practical Physics in schools.
          When all these problems continue, it makes the learning of Physics being the study of nature cannot learn in theories alone without practical works.
          Finally, Physics practical involve investigation and interpretation through experimentation of natural phenomenon physical environment, and organs, within the body. The activities that can not do without a laboratory for effective and efficient practicalization, the laboratory has to be well equipped.
The Need for Adequate Physics Laboratory In Teaching Of Physics Practical In Schools
The need for adequate Physics laboratory in schools is recognized. It is also realized that no more laboratory designed will satisfy every Physics teacher.
          Oladimeji (2001) describes a science laboratory as a special room together with furniture equipment and supplies that is, water, gas and electricity in an cereal situation one experts to find a laboratory for separate subjects especially Physics in their school curriculum. In reality however one discover that majority of Nigeria secondary schools do not have separate laboratories for separate science subjects.
          Technical assistance is also essential for the effective maintenance and use of a laboratory and its equipment. Physics is a subject that requires a practical work and the importance of this practical work cannot be over equipment and facilities for teaching Physics practical.
          The above problems facing the availability of well-designed and adequate Physics laboratory in some selected secondary schools in Ikere local government area of Ekiti State need the attention of individuals as well as that of the government.
Students Attitude Towards The Leaning Of Physics Practical In Schools
          It is noticed that most students generally react negatively to the learning of Physics practical. Shaprio (2000) observed that the performance of students towards solution of Physics practical problems was higher in those with positive attitude towards the subject than those who had negative attitude.
          Ann Hennen (2002) laid emphasis on the importance of Students attitude as a predictor of the Students in a school subject.         The statement above is a generalized statement that can applied to Physics practical. This shows that students with poor attitude towards the learning of Physics practical will performs badly in the subject.
The Roles Of Environment In Teaching Practical In Schools
          The effect of environment in the teaching of Physics practical cannot be over emphasized as most of the materials (specimen) are found within the environment.  Eshirt (2008) emphasized that creativity and use of environment in Physics practical have the following advantages. A better understanding of the subject matter by the students. An opportunity for the student’s participation in the construction of apparatus. This improving Students interest and understanding. The environment must be conducive for the student for effective practical and better understanding.
School Management Involvement In Teaching Of Physics Practical In Schools
          The school management is important in teaching Physics practical in schools. Most Physics teachers are not given free hands to handle teaching materials and most teachers discouraged by these attitudes of authority.
          Starma (2002) suggested that teaching of Physics practical in schools and other science subject required enormous funds to provide laboratory and science equipment.
These funds in most cases are not provided to other sector of the school at the expense of Physics sector also most school principals force their teachers to take the subject outside their field of specialization, especially Physics teachers in the pretext that there are not enough teachers handing the subject if teachers are forced to teach subject outside their areas of specialization, there is tendency for the teacher not to be interested in the subject forces on him.
Inability to impart necessary knowledge in the students, behavioral attitude of the teacher may be negative toward the students and vice versa. This will surely lead to the poor performance of the students in teaching of Physics practical.
Problem Facing Teaching And Learning Of Physics Practical
Klainin (2009) identified some problems of practical work in school science as experienced by the teachers and students in both developed and developing countries. These problems are associated with curriculum implementation, change of emphasis in school curriculum, and problems of incentives and the problems that are associated with goals that could be attained by practical work.
The problems associated with curriculum implementation include the lack of equipment, enough time for practical work, safety precautions in the laboratory, and students’ participation. Those associated with incentives include the value of practical work held by students, teachers and curriculum developers, and the lack of reward for the students.
Practical work for school Science classes might be very expensive in money and time and human resources. Third world countries have not been reluctant in designing their science curricula to accept the challenge of using practical-based approaches to science learning. However, many problems then arise. How can equipment be obtained? Can the teachers make use of it? How can it be stored? How can large classes experience activities when only one set of equipment is available? (Klainin, 2009).
Given the importance of practical work in enhancing understanding, ample time and resources should be made available to schools. This will enable Science teachers to ensure the attainment of Science content and processes
There was a significant difference between the teachers who have science laboratories and those who have not. The teachers who found their laboratories well-equipped wanted to do practicals more and more in comparison with those whose labs were inadequate. Having no science laboratories or inadequate equipment in science laboratories in schools affect teachers’ attitudes towards the aims of science experiments. The teachers’ opinions related to the non-existence of laboratories and inadequate equipment in laboratories may prevent them from the idea of doing simple experiments even under the current skimpy circumstances. Thus, the teachers may tend towards an idea that only when there is a well-equipped lab they can perform science experiments and reach their goals. (Gayford, 2008).
Lack of resources for the conduct of practical work such as laboratories might prevent teachers from carrying out practical work in Physics.
Method Of Teaching Physics Practical
          Teaching methods contributed to the effective performance of Students on Physics practical.      Ajewole and Okebukola (1999) and Ajewole (2000) reported that many connectional methods used in schools did not yield the desired positive effect in Physics.           Consequently, innovative methods are currently being used and recommended for teaching Physics.
          Also Ajaja and kpangba (2000) gave hints on how to teaching of Physics, other innovative methods are team-teaching and gaining for effective teaching of Physics in 21st century, teaching methods should  be varied it is therefore important to determine the extent of Physics teachers knowledge of each of the methods any to what extent they use each method.
          Three cycles of observation of student learning these practical, together with Students evaluation suggest that the majority of student feel that these practical helped them to achieve their learning outcomes and that they were able to engage with the subject materials more than in other practical.
Goals and aims of Laboratory activites in Science teaching
According to Hodson (2002), “It is sometimes convenient to think of education in science as having three major aspects.
1) Learning science: Acquiring a range of scientific concepts and becoming familiar with some of the major scientific theories.
2) Learning about science: Gaining some understanding of the nature of science and scientific practice and an appreciation of the complex relationship between science, technology and society. Practical work/laboratory work is the logical consequences of the scientific method; it should be seen and dealt with in this context as part of the process.
3) Doing science: Acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary for engaging in scientific inquiry and using that expertise to conduct real enquiries sometimes self-directed, sometimes under teacher guidance.
Practical work can be placed under both, learning science, doing science and learning about science. This is because students use their hands to do practical work. This they do, so that they can acquire skills and knowledge that will allow them to be involved in scientific inquiry. Students also use their understanding in order to arrive at their conclusions during practical work. Also, in learning science; learners do practical work in order to acquire scientific concepts that will allow them to understand science in general.
In a review of the literature on the place of practical work, Schulman and Tamir (1973, p. 343) proposed a classification of goals for laboratory instruction in science education as to:
(i) arouse and maintain interest, attitudes satisfaction, open mindedness and curiosity in science.
(ii) develop creative thinking and problem solving ability.
(iii) promote aspects of scientific thinking and the scientific method e.g. formulating hypotheses and making assumptions.
(iv) develop conceptual understanding and intellectual ability.
(v) develop practical abilities, for example, designing and executing investigations, observations, recording data, and analysing and interpreting data.

Practical work should therefore allow students to use all their four sense organs which will allow them to learn science with understanding. Practical work will also improve students’ observational skills, so that they can become good observers in future.
 Benefits of laboratory activities  in the teaching of science subjects
According to Gott and Duggan (2003, p. 95), “Practical work is seen as the teaching and learning approach that develops procedural understanding as well as substantive understanding. Practical work allows learning by doing and is an important experience of own productivity and provides opportunities for significant learning about oneself and the world.”
Practical work allows learners to learn with understanding. Learners understand better what they have seen rather than what they were taught theoretically. During practical works, learners touch and hold the equipment themselves and as such learn better by doing.
The value of practical work has long been recognized at the secondary school level. Many teachers acknowledge the value of learning by doing rather than just being shown or told (Driver and Braund, 2002; p .222). If students can be allowed to do practical work in Physics, then this could help them understand the content better, because students learn better by doing. They will remember better something that they have done with their own hands. This was further emphasized by Hodson (2002) who said that practical work is an essential component of science and vocational subjects teaching. It is therefore advisable that students should be prepared with mastery of the skills required for practical work so that they will be ready for assessment. Hodson (2002) further added that in practical work the candidate performs certain activities in order to discover something as yet unknown, to test a hypothesis or to check an already known fact. In order to perform these activities, the candidate has to learn the skills required for practical work, which includes preparing and performing experiments and processing the results obtained.
According to Ottander and Grelsson (2006, p. 113), “The purpose of laboratory work in science education includes helping students learn science through the acquisition of conceptual and theoretical knowledge, and helping them learn about science by developing an understanding of the nature and methods of science”. Laboratory work would thus enable students to do science using the ways of scientific inquiry. The increased support for purposeful learning complements scientific theories and how to apply them. Furthermore, laboratory work is meant to stimulate the development of analytical and critical skills and create interest in science (Ottander and Grelsson, 2006). For the interests of students in science to be increased and for them to become motivated to want to do science, there is a need for teachers to do practical work with them.
A large proportion of both primary and secondary pupils thought that practical work would contribute positively to general learning in science. They believe that practical work provided a usefully independent experience that supports learning. By doing practical work in science at school, students can find things out for themselves rather than the teacher telling them; it is more fun than just the teacher showing them. (Krathwohl, 1998).
The statement above by Krathwohl (1998) is true. From the researcher’s experience, usually when it is time for practical work, most of the students are happy, and they usually pay more attention than during the normal lecture lesson. In other words students find it fun when they are doing practical work, because they discover things for themselves.
We know that students enjoy practical work and that students are more likely to engage with science if they can see its relevance by doing experiments. Experiments sharpen students’ powers of observation, stimulate questions and help develop new understanding and their vocabulary. Practical work will also help all teachers of science subjects to share their skills and experiences of making experiments work in their classrooms. (Hodson, 2002).
Practical work with real objects and materials help teachers and learners to communicate information and ideas about the natural world, and also provides opportunities to develop students’ understanding of the scientific approach to enquiry (Leach and Paulsen, 1999).
Practical skills in science education are important in their own right. Prcatical work is useful and essential for the teaching of Science in schools that aim to train students to become scientists or technicians and is helpful in assisting concept learning, development of attitudes and interests in learners in Science. Students, whether they go on to study science further or not, should benefit from the practical experiences of their science education, skills and hands-on confidence that will be useful in their future lives as citizens.
According to Ausubel and Novak (1968), the laboratory gives the students appreciation of the spirit and method of science, promotes problem-solving, analytical and generalization ability and provides students with some understanding of the nature of science.
“Science is about, ‘seeing is believing” (Ausubel et al. 1968, p. 234)’. So learners should see, for them to believe, not only learn facts without any supporting evidence. That is why practical work is essential in understanding science. Students for that matter need proper training and guidance in doing practical work. Furthermore, at the end of the year learners in Namibia will be assessed practically.
It is therefore important that learners should be allowed to do practical work in Physics in order for them to benefit from those practicals and be able to understand Physics better. Teachers should organize practicals for the learners to do, and then teachers should help learners to do the practicals themselves if learners are to benefit from doing the practicals.
Teachers’ perceptions of the importance of laboratory activtes
The development of teachers’ favourable attitudes towards science has often been listed as one of the important goals of science teaching. Students enjoy laboratory work in some courses and that it generally results in positive and improved attitudes towards science, and interest in the sciences 
Newman (2009 .2) wrote: “We observed classes who studied Physics and found that with few exceptions pupils enjoyed what they are doing in the laboratory even if difficulties arose in the procedures or even if students became aware that they didn’t understand what was happening, it didn’t seem to matter”. On the other hand, Woolnough and Allsop (1985, p. 201) noted that, “Many science teachers recognized the importance of practical work. They believed that pupils should have first-hand practical experience in laboratories in order to acquire skills in handling apparatus, to measure and to illustrate concepts and principles”. Having first hand information will allow students to apply the skills acquired during practical work when they become scientists in future.
Ramorogo (1998) explored teachers’ perceptions of practical work in Physics in Botswana secondary schools. He found that in large classes, the shortage of laboratories and the lack of laboratory assistants were serious impediments to teachers in involving students in meaningful practical activities.
On the other hand, Leach et al. (1999) reviewed the use of practical work in science education in different countries. They found that in many countries, teachers spent or claimed that they spent considerable amounts of time in supervising laboratory work. However, they found that the bulk of science assessment was traditionally non-practical.
In other words, the assessment of students’ performance in the Science laboratory was by and large neglected in most countries and by most teachers.
It should also be noted that during practical work the teachers interact with their students which develops closeness and trust between them. The students feel that their teachers care about them as much as they care about themselves. In an atmosphere of care and trust, learning is fostered. According to Psillos and Niedderer (2002, p. 232), “Practical work has long been a feature of school Science but the role and intended learning outcomes of practical work have been the subject of considerable debates. With regard to practical work, it is difficult for a teacher to plan systematically without having a clear understanding of the aims of the practical tasks being set. If learners are to cope with the demand of such tasks, they must possess appropriate conceptual and procedural understandings of practical work.” In short, teachers need to be able to select practical activities that match intended learning outcomes. Such learning should extend beyond substantive facts and concepts to gaining an understanding of how to collect evidence from practical activities and how to analyse validate and use this as a basis for decision making (Gott and Duggan, 2003).
Thompson (1975) investigated the value of practical work at the upper secondary school level in England and Wales. The aim was to determine the value that teachers placed on laboratory work and to find out the constraints that prevented teachers from putting theory into practice. The finding revealed that teachers provided opportunities for students to be involved in a variety of practical work such as standardized exercises, discovery experiments, and taught those aims that they considered important.
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