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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