Problems Of Students In Conducting Effective Physics Practical In Senior Secondary Schools

Physics Education Project Material

Problems Of Students In Conducting Effective Physics Practical In Senior Secondary Schools


Abstract


This study concerned itself with effective physics practical in secondary schools. It examined whether the way practical experiences were presented to the students and students’ engagement in them enhanced the attainment of goals of practical work. The procedure of conducting practical work in physics was of great concern and more specifically, the skills emphasised during practical work in physics lessons.

The study was conducted in Sokoto metropolis of Nigeria and adopted a descriptive survey design. The main population for the study comprised all the 47 public secondary schools in the province from which 9 sample schools were selected using a combination of stratified, purposive and systematic sampling procedures.

The study utilised questionnaires, lesson observation schedules and document analysis guide to collect data. Data collection was preceded by a pilot study mainly to determine the reliability of the instruments. On analysis of data from the pilot study, the instruments were found to be reliable. Data collected during the main study was analysed utilizing Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 10.0.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Today we are living in the age of science and technology. Scientific inventions and discoveries have revolutionalised our lives. Science is nothing but knowledge so obtained by observations, readings, experimentation and realization.
Science subjects constitute a major part of the subjects being offered in most post primary institutions in Nigeria today. These subjects are so important that the Federal government National Policy on Education (2004) in specific terms states that “the secondary school Education shall provide trained manpower in the applied sciences and technology’’.

The importance attached to science by the Federal government could be due to the general belief that science is capable of improving and changing skills, attitudes, and cognition by increasing pupil’s store of knowledge about themselves, their environment and their world. The development of any nation which depends on science and technology, hinges on science Education, science has been viewed as an instrument that can aid development in many countries. It plays important and dominant roles in spear heading technological advancements, promoting national wealth, improving health, and accelerating industrialization (Validya, 2003).

Physics as one of the science subjects is basic for understanding the complexities of modern technology and essential for technological advancement of a nation. This aspect of science is making significant contributions to many of the inventions that are shaping modern day, and has helped to explain many of the events being encountered in everyday life. Physics is one of the pre-requisite subjects for the study of engineering technological, medical and other applied science courses, in the University. Physics provide training for a vast range of carriers where it is either employed directly or where the skills developed can be applied in innovative ways in other fields. Despite its importance, physics remain the least favored science subject among students generally, only a few students choose to study physics at O. Level and subsequently at higher degree. Students performs poorly in physics, lack of practical work may be an important reason for students for poor content knowledge and understanding of physics at secondary school level in Nigeria (Millar, 2004).

There is a serious shortage of students and teachers of physics in Nigerian secondary schools, this is generating concern among science educators, and researchers are increasingly exploring why students avoid the subject, over the years student of physics in secondary school have found it extremely difficult to perform well in the subject (Nelkon & Ogbon, 1988).

Studies have been carried out to find out the cause of such poor performance. Poor performance of students in physics could be linked to students practical ability (Olabanji,1997), supported by Akanbi (2003) that poor performance in physics may be due to inadequate laboratory equipment, and facilities which make the present study imperative.

Physics as a course of study is perceived to be experimental, the understanding of practical aspect may help students to learn physics concepts. The educational objectives of physics education cannot be fully realized if student’s performance in both physics theory and practical are not balanced (Aina, 2011).

For the mere fact that physics has been severally labeled as the most conceptually difficult subject, particularly the practical aspect of the subject, it is important to explore the underlying difficulties that might impede quality learning in the subject, in the context of Nigerian school environment. The aim of this study is to identify problems associated with conducting effective physics practical in senior secondary schools in Sokoto metropolis.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this study is to make a critical appraisal of the problems hindering the conduct of physics practical and advance suggestion that will enhance the effectiveness, and efficiency of the conduct of physics practical in senior secondary schools within Sokoto metropolis.

A close look at the ways physics practical is handled in most of our secondary schools indicate that probably students were made to merely see physics as a collection of rules. However, it is assumed that proper conduct and involvement of students in physics practical has became less valued, physics students are likely to be passive listeners even in the laboratory, as they watch teachers carry out the teaching theoretically or carry out demonstration or experiments (Anele, 2011).

Other assumed problems may include that students are not encouraged to consider practical work useful for the development of scientific skills and attitudes. Another problem confronting the learning and conduct of physics practical in schools is the lack of equipment and facilities and their inadequacy (in some case) which hinder the effectiveness of learning physics in schools (Jegede & Okebukola, 1995; Nwaokolo, 1998; Anikweze, 2000; Anele, 2001).

Allocation of time to physics practical in school lesson time table is insufficient, activities to be undertaken therefore suffer. This constitutes an enormous problem to the proper conduct of physics practical in school (Mistler, Dackson & Butler, 2000; Polman, 2000).

Physics teachers stress is another problem confronting the conduct of physics practical in schools. A stress results when the teacher’s experience is unpleasant, given rise to tension, frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression, poor working conditions resulting from lack of practical equipments for conducting effective physics practical have been identified as the source of stress in some part of the world (Akpan, 2001). This is not a unique case in the Nigerian context. Physics teachers in Nigeria find these poor working condition stressful (Jegede & Okebukola, 1995).

Other problems encountered by students in conducting physics practical in senior schools include:

  • Lack of good practical supervision
  • Lack of practical manuals.
  • Inadequate qualified physics teachers in secondary schools.
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor laboratory condition
  • Poor physics practical apparatus
  • Problems in setting apparatus
  • Problem in relating physics practical with physics theory.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

  1. To identify problems of students in conducting effective practical work in secondary school physics
  2. To describe the procedure of conducting practical work in secondary school physics

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What is the state of laboratories in secondary schools in Sokoto metropolis?
  2. What skills are emphasized by teachers in teaching practical work in secondary school physics?
  3. What are the attitudes of the students towards practical work in secondary school physics?
  4. What are the attitudes of the teachers towards teaching physics practical work in secondary schools?

1.5 Significance of the Study

Provide a framework for teachers on which they could re-evaluate their instructional strategies during practical work in physics for the enhancement of effective teaching and learning provide insight for the curriculum designers into the kind of practical experiences in secondary school physics needed to aid sound understanding of scientific concepts and principles provide a framework for the NECO on which the council could re-evaluate their goals and objectives so that the practices during secondary school practical physics were in line with what the curriculum demanded of students.


1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

Scope

This study was carried out in Sokoto metropolis in the southern part of Nigeria.

It was conducted in few selected secondary schools and involved only physics teachers and few selected Form three students in Sokoto metropolis.

It focused only on the practical aspect of secondary school physics. It is however clear that the overall grade in NECO physics is a contribution of both theory and practical examination and given as a grade for performance in physics.

Limitations

It was not possible to generalize the results to the whole country since the study was conducted only in a few selected secondary schools in Sokoto metropolis.

It was not possible to generalise the results to physics since only the practical aspect of secondary school physics was considered in thisstudy.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

Summary and Implications of the Findings

Resources for Teaching Practical Work in Physics

The main resources investigated in this study were the science laboratory and laboratory technicians Laboratories
From the results of this study, secondary schools in the study sample in Sokoto metropolis were found to have laboratories that were well equipped with apparatus and chemicals to enable practical work in physics to be conducted. The implication of this finding is that students can be given opportunities to engage in a variety of activities that may enhance the development of a variety of scientific skills and hence promote understanding of concepts in physics. It was however noted that functional fume chambers and first aid boxes were absent in laboratories in most secondary schools in the study sample. These two facilities help in ensuring the safety of laboratory users (students, teachers and laboratory technicians). This finding would most likely affect the activities in physics practical work that teachers arranged for students. It would also compromise on the quality of first aid that anyone would wish to offer to a victim of a laboratory accident.
Skills emphasised during Practical Work in Physics

The results of this study revealed that teachers of physics were in a good position to arrange for experiences in practical work in physics in which students could develop a variety of scientific skills. The teachers were well qualified, had long experience of teaching physics and had positive attitudes towards practical work in physics. However, only certain skills were emphasised by physics teachers both in teaching and in assessment. The main skills emphasised were: observation, manipulation of apparatus and materials and recording data. Some of the key scientific skills not seriously emphasised by the teachers included: aspects of experimental design and hypothesis formulation. As long such skills continued to lack in practical work in physics lessons, students graduating from the secondary schools would be those not likely to take part in the process of generating science knowledge but only consumers of such knowledge.

Attitudes towards Practical Work in Physics

The results of this study indicated that generally teachers and students had positive attitudes towards practical work in physics, although in part students showed lack of understanding regarding the relationship between practical work in physics and theory in physics. While teachers’ and students’ positive attitude towards practical work in physics should enhance good performance, lack of understanding on the part of students concerning the relationship between practical work in physics and theory in physics was likely to enhance the students’ view that practical work in physics could replace theory in physics. This view could affect the commitment of students towards either practical work or theoretical physics.


5.2 Conclusion

Resources and Facilities for teaching Practical Work in Physics

A laboratory is a key resource in teaching/learning science and physics in particular. However, for it to be able play its role effectively, the laboratory needs not only to be equipped with the necessary apparatus and chemicals but should also be a safe place for all to work. This study showed that secondary schools in the study sample had well equipped laboratories to enable students carry out practical work in physics. However, most secondary schools in the study sample were found to be lacking functional fume chambers and first aid boxes. These two are facilities that may help to ensure the safety of laboratory users (students, teachers and laboratory technicians).

Laboratory technicians are key personnel in teaching and learning science and physics in particular. Their main role is to ensure proper laboratory management by helping science teachers with the preparation for practical activities in those subjects.

If the technician is available and trained then the workload on the part of the teacher would be minimised. This study also showed that most secondary schools in the study sample had only one technician who managed the preparations for practical work in all the science subjects. The science teachers in general and physics teachers in particular would thus be required to step in and assist. This could compromise on the quality of the planning for the lessons.

Skills emphasised during Practical Work in Physics

This study revealed that only certain skills were emphasised by teachers both in teaching and in assessment. The main skills emphasised included: observation, manipulation of apparatus and materials and recording data. Key scientific skills not emphasised by the teachers included: aspects of experimental design and hypothesis formulation.

Attitudes towards Practical Work inPhysics

The attitude object in this study was practical work in physics. The study showed that the attitudes of both teachers and students in schools in the study sample were generally positive. However, students tended to look at practical work in physics and theory as two separate entities and that one could replace one with theother.


5.3 Recommendations

Teachers of physics were found to be qualified with long enough teaching experience and their teaching load was manageable. As such it is recommended that they need to take advantage of the positive attitudes students have towards practical work to involve them in as many activities as possible in order to enhance the acquisition of the various scientific skills.

The NECO on the other hand needed to diversify the skills students were assessed in physics practical work in order to put the teachers on the alert all the time. They could for example include simple aspects of experimental design in assessment.

Secondly BOG and PTA committees as school mangers are charged with the responsibility of provision of teaching/learning facilities. This study revealed that schools in the study sample were in short of functional fume chambers and first aid boxes. In view of this finding it is recommended that the school managers look into ways and means of maintaining fume chambers and first aid boxes in laboratories. Otherwise teachers needed not be afraid of carrying out experiments that required the use of fume chambers. To facilitate experimentation, schools that had more than one laboratory need to employ one technician per available laboratory to reduce the load on the science teachers so that they could concentrate on the actual lesson planning and teaching


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