Science Process Skills Acquired By Senior Secondary School Chemistry Students

Project and Seminar Material for Chemistry Education

Science Process Skills Acquired By Senior Secondary School Chemistry Students


Abstract


The study was aimed at ascertaining the science process skills acquired by senior secondary school chemistry students in Enugu Education Zone. The sample was made up of sixty (60) secondary three (SSIII) students from six (6) secondary schools in Enugu Education Zone of Enugu state. The design for the study was a descriptive survey. The science process skills investigated were observation, experimenting, controlling variables, measuring,, recording, communication and inference using quantitative and qualitative analysis chemistry practical activities. The instrument for data collection was the practical chemistry skills rating scale (PCSRS) adapted by the researcher and validated by science educators in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The instrument contained fifty four (54) items consisting of twenty seven (27) quantitative analysis items (QTA) and twenty seven (27) qualitative analysis items (QLA).

Kendall’s coefficient of concordance was used to establish the inter-rater reliability index. The overall coefficients of concordance for quantitative and qualitative analysis of the items were 0.796 and 0.803 respectively. The estimate of internal consistency of the instrument was done using Cronbach’s alpha. The overall internal consistency reliability coefficients for quantitative and qualitative analysis of the items were 0.842 and 0.632 respectively. Data collected were analyzed using mean, standard deviation, Z-test and ANOVA. It was found that of the seven skills investigated students had low level of acquisition in four skills. These are: controlling variables, recording, communication and inference. Gender and school type had no significant influence. School location had significant influence in favour of urban. Among others, it was recommended that pedagogical inspectors, principals and school administrators should be strict on the maximum use the science laboratory by science teachers.


Chapter One


Introduction

Background of the Study

All the nations of the world accord priority attention to science and technology in their development efforts. The reason for according such priority attention to science and technology is that it is a road map to great economic improvement and equally serves the only means to national development (Ajewole, 2010). In the age of fast-developing technology, it has become necessary for all countries of the world, especially the developing ones, to organize and improve the teaching of science that helps in understanding of the fundamental base to develop technology. Technology is the successful application of scientific ideas, principles, laws and theories for the purposes of developing services as well as for improving technology itself (Agboola & Oloyede, 2007). Science benefits technology at the same time that technology enhances our understanding of science.

Okeke (2007), defined science as a systematic process of obtaining verifiable knowledge and experimentation. Nwosu (2001), defined science as both an organized body of knowledge and a process of finding out knowledge. Science is a discipline, a body of knowledge about the universe, the structure and reactions of matter, the conservation and transfer of energy, the interaction between living things and their environment (Ezeudu, 2011). Therefore, all the definitions above center on science as systematic study of the environment or nature through observation and experimentation leading to accumulation of an organized body of knowledge useful for problem solving in the environment. According to Mbah and Leghara (2008), science is a two way activity that involves “product” (the knowledge and outcomes of Science) and “process” (the skills and scientific procedures of investigation). Science can be categorized into two dimensions – the process and the product dimensions. The process of science involves the methods of approach employed and activities engaged in by scientists in order to arrive at a product. These include observation, classification, measurement, inferring, communication, predicting, controlling variables, formulating models, formulation of hypothesis, manipulating, interpretation of data, counting/number relations, experimenting, recording of data and making operational definitions (Akinbobola & Afolabi, 2010). These processes are commonly called science process skills. The product involves principles, laws, information and all the knowledge resulting from the activities of scientists which make up the content of our science textbooks (National Teacher Institute, 2002).

Science and technology have become an integral part of the world culture. The combined influence of science and technology result in structural changes and unequalled modernization process which give rise to great increase in productive capacity and specialization in the environment. The contribution of science and technology to overall development of all nations cannot be over-emphasized. But the rate of scientific and technological development in Nigeria is still low. The slow rate in our technological advancement according to Ige (2013) is attributed to a number of factors, some of which are related to the state of science education in Nigerian schools. Ibiyengibo (2012) reported that a major defect in our science education is that science is presented dogmatically in most schools as a series of disjointed facts and concepts which students find difficult to relate to the real world. Ibiyengibo further reported that most of our secondary school laboratories are ill-equipped and as a result, students are denied that feeling of participation and reality which practical classes and demonstration accord.

Science education according to Okeke (2007) is an integrated field of study which considers both the subject matter of science disciplines such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Agriculture, etc as well as the process involved in the learning and teaching of science. It includes all education processes aimed at providing unlimited opportunities for learners to understand and utilize necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes required to operate effectively in a scientific and technological society. Therefore science education is the application of principles of education in the development and acquisition of processes/procedures required to help others acquire scientific and technological knowledge for ready application to everyday living. Science education at the secondary school level is expected to be taught as a process of inquiry involving, developing in students cognitive skills, affective skills and psychomotor skills of science (Adeyemo, 2009).

The cognitive skills are the subject matter of any course in the sciences including its rules, principles, contents, propositions, hypotheses, ideas, theories, concepts and so on. Affective skills include a host of positive or negative constructs, such as attitudes, values, beliefs, opinions and motivation demonstrated towards the study, appreciation and application of science. Adam (2009) noted that the psychomotor skills involve technical laboratory activities such as manipulating science equipment. Psychomotor skills are important in science process skills development, technological and scientific based careers and they arise through experimentation, observation, data collection, analysis and interpretation as well as the ability to care for and maintain laboratory materials and equipment. Contributing to the poor state of science education instructions in Nigerian schools, Nwosu (2010) observed that a great majority of the currently serving science teachers are not qualified to teach chemistry at the secondary school level. This militates against the development of science process skills and affects the country’s realization of technological progress.

Ozgelen (2012) defined science process skills as abilities, potentials as well as all the technical “know how” which can be developed in a child and which can be employed in carrying out mental and physical operation in science. Nwosu (2007) described science process skills as mental and physical abilities and competencies which serve as tools needed for the effective study of science and technology as well as problem solving for individual and societal development. Ugwu (2007) observed that science process skills present science as a way of investigating and a way of thinking. Baiyielo (2007) opined that science process skills are logically linked series of activities that can easily be learnt. Science process skills enable individuals and society at large to tackle their problems in a systematic and orderly way; developing an approach to problems that are not only scientific but social as well. Science process skills also encourage the active involvement of children in learning process (NTI, 2002). Science process skills are tools for gathering information, problem solving decision making and adaptation (Chukwuemeka & Nwosu, 2008).Acquisition of these skills is enhanced by the use of experimental method of teaching which requires a child`s active involvement in activities.

The shift from the teacher-centered method of teaching science to child-centered activity based method which encourages and develops in the child the spirit of inquiry; an attempt to make students fully aware as well as understand the ways scientist work; and also equipping and preparing students for their possible careers in science and technology led to the development of process skills (Akinbobola, 2006). It is worth noting that for science teaching to be meaningful and relevant, it must adequately reflect the nature of science. That is, it must not only be process-oriented, but it should also emphasize the products of science. It should also promote affective reaction to science and stress the attitudes such as honesty, open and critical mindedness, curiosity, suspended judgment and humility which characterize scientists and the scientific enterprise (Lawrence, 2006).

The NTI (2002) categorized science process skills into two major groups – the cognitive or reasoning ability group and practical ability group. The reasoning ability group includes interpretation, application of knowledge in solution of problems and drawing inferences; while the practical ability group includes the manipulation and observation skills. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS 1967) classified the science process skills into fifteen. These are observing, measuring, classifying, communicating, predicting, inferring, using number, using space/time relationship, questioning, controlling variables, hypothesizing, defining operationally, formulating models, designing experiment and interpreting data.

According to Ango (2011), science process skills can be classified into two categories as basic and integrated process skills. The basic (simpler) process skills provide a foundation for learning the integrated (more complex) skills. Basic science processes are vital for science learning and concept formation at the primary and junior secondary school levels. More difficult and integrated science process skills are more appropriate at the senior secondary and tertiary school levels for the formation of models, experimenting and inferring. Hence, both basic and integrated science process skills are relevant and appropriate at the senior secondary school level in Nigeria.

According Ango, the basic science process skills comprise observing, measuring, classifying, communicating, inferring, using number, using space/time relationship and questioning while integrated science process skills are controlling and manipulating variable, hypothesizing, defining operationally, formulating models, designing experiment and interpreting data. This study identified level of acquisition of seven (7) out of the fifteen (15) science process skills. These comprised of five (5) basic science process skills (observation, measuring , recording, communication and inferring skills) and two (2) integrated science process skills (controlling variables and experimenting).

Chemistry practical skills are science process skills. They are taught as part and parcel of the chemistry curriculum. Science process skills are cognitive and psychomotor skills employed in problem solving. They are the skills which sciences use in problem – identification, objective inquiry, data gathering, transformation, interpretation and communication. Science process skills can be acquired and developed through training which are involved in science practical activities. They are the aspect of science learning which is retained after cognitive knowledge has been forgotten. Using science process skills is an important indicator or transfer of knowledge which is necessary for problem-solving and functional living. The knowledge of process skills in science is very important for proper understanding of concepts in science. Ajaja (2010) stated that process skills are fundamental to science, which allows everyone to conduct investigation and reach conclusions. Ajaja observed that there is a serious educational gap in this area, both in bringing these skills into the classroom and in the training of teachers to use them effectively.

The skills in chemistry practical activities (quantitative and qualitative analysis) cannot be completed without creativity. Practical work is not just putting the apparatuses together when seen, but it needs planning, designing a problem, creating new approach and procedure and also putting familiar things together in the new arrangement. This implies that the knowledge of creativity exhibited by candidates in any practical class helps them to manipulate some practical equipment. According to Gliddings and Fraser (1988), achieving the objectives of science practical work depends a lot on the mode of assessment of laboratory work adopted by the teachers and examination bodies. According to Gliddings and Fraser, the mode of assessment directly influences teachers’ teaching methods, students’ learning styles and attitudes towards practical activities.

The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) makes use of practical test/examination to assess students’ acquisition of various practical skills. In these tests, students are required to carry out certain chemistry practical activities following some given instructions. The scores of the students obtained through the marking of their practical works indirectly indicate the level of chemistry practical process skills they could demonstrate during the practical examination. The mode of assessment is also adopted by chemistry teachers who prepare the students for Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE). This mode of assessment influences the teaching methods adopted by the teachers. In addition, students’ learning style is influenced in such a way that they always try to find certain correct responses of answers irrespective of the procedures adopted.

The process approach method of teaching science is meant to foster inquiry and manipulative skills in students and discourage rote learning. This method embraces other methods of science teaching and is mainly activity based, superior to those in which the students are not actively involved in learning process (Akinbobola, 2008). This reason has made WAEC and bodies that conduct SSSCE to stipulate that practical work should form the basis of teaching sciences. During examination, the practical work is also assessed separately. Currently, chemistry being one of the sciences taught in senior secondary schools is taught both in theory and practical. In both internal and external examinations, practical chemistry is assessed separately as an integral part of the subject. Evidences from WAEC Chief Examiner’s Report of 2010, 2011 and 2013 have shown students` poor achievement in chemistry practical. It was reported that many students were unable to record observations made correctly, give logical inferences to the observations made, inappropriate use of terminology in qualitative analysis and introduction of reagents not mentioned in the prescribed test in the year 2014(WAEC Chief Examiner` Report, 2014). This was in corroboration with Fasakin (2003) and Udochukwu (2008) that absence of science process skills gives rise to poor achievement in chemistry practical.

Science process skills acquisition has significance influence on students` practical activities at senior secondary school level where students are required to be evaluated on practical activities as one aspect of the nine papers written in the final examination. This practical test is designed to develop and test the three aspect of the students’ intellectual development; cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills. This practical is introduced late and students have to acquire these practical skills in few months to write WAEC and NECO examinations. The late introduction of training in the psychomotor skills at the SSIII may be the cause of poor students` achievement in chemistry practical at SSIII as reported by WAEC Chief Examiner’s Report 2013 and 2014. Chemistry students will have problem of acquiring these practical skills in short period to write the final examination. This might affect the overall achievement of students in O’ level chemistry practical. Hence, there is the need to find out the level of acquisition of the science process skills acquired by senior secondary school chemistry students in practical chemistry.

Generally, students’ acquisition of science process skills in practical work can be influenced by other factors such as the learners, learning environment, the subject matter, teachers, gender, school location, school type, etc. Some studies have been carried out to find out the effect of gender, school location and school type in science generally on the acquisition of science process skills in particular. Some researchers have reported the prevalence of significant gender difference in acquisition of science process skills in sciences. For example Nwosu (2001), Enebechi, Chukelu, (2009) and Muhammad (2014) submitted that gender had no significant influence on acquisition of science process skills among the secondary school students in biology. But, Adonu (2006), Ugwuanyi (2014), Njoku and Jacks (2011) found out that gender had significant effect on acquisition of process skills in physics. Anyanwu (2012) and Ugwu (2009) found out that gender had influence on acquisition of science process skills in mathematics and chemistry respectively. Therefore, this study will identify the level of acquisition of science process skills, influence of gender, school location and school type on science process skills in chemistry practical among secondary school students.

According to Anyanwu (2012), Yusuf (2010) and Akinbobola (2008), urban students outperformed their rural counterparts in chemistry achievement test. But Ugwu (2009) and Adigun (2010) found no significant difference between urban and rural schools. Since the literatures reviewed contradicted, this research work will find out the influence of school location on acquisition of science process skills in chemistry practical activities in different area of study.

Influence of school type on students’ achievement in science, literature revealed that females benefited more in single schools than in co-educational schools (Salau, 2001). Salau also found out that girls performed better than males in mathematics irrespective of school type. In contrary, Esemonu and Onunkwo (2004) found that male performed better than females in single schools and again males in single schools performed better than males in co-educational schools while females in single do not perform better than males in co-educational schools. In addition, Yusuf (2010) and Anyanwu (2012), noted that all male schools performed better on some skills acquisition followed by co-educational schools and least was female schools. Njoku (2000) revealed that females in single school scored significantly higher mean in science process skills than females in mixed sex group. Ugwu (2009) and Adigun (2010) found that school type has no influence on practical skills acquisition.

These factors which affect science process skills will also affect students’ achievement in chemistry practical. It is therefore necessary to identify the science process skills acquired by senior secondary school students in chemistry practical activities to find ways of improving the students’ acquisition of the skills if the level is low.


Statement of Problem

Science process skills are useful in science and non-science situations. Science process skills are the working behaviours of the scientists and technologists. Process skills are very fundamental to science which allows students to conduct investigations and reach conclusions; but there is still a serious educational gap in this area both in bringing these skills into the classroom and in the training of teachers to use them effectively. Both basic and integrated science process skills are relevant and appropriate for learning science subjects, especially chemistry practical at senior secondary school level in Nigeria. However, there is consistent poor achievement of students in chemistry practical at senior secondary school level. Achievement in chemistry practical is related to the acquisition of science process skills and if the acquisition of these skills is low, achievement will consequently be low. Most importantly, the acquisition of these skills is through laboratory practical activities. Could this poor achievement in chemistry practical be as a result of the lack of the acquisition of science process skills by chemistry students during practical activities? Hence, the problem of the study is to identify the level of science process skills acquired by senior secondary school chemistry students. Specifically this study will involve identification of the influence of gender, school type and school location on chemistry students` level of acquisition of science process skills in practical chemistry.


Purpose of the study

The purpose of the study is to identify the level of science process skills acquired by Senior

Secondary School chemistry students. Specifically, the study intends to:

  1. Ascertain the level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry;
  2. Ascertain the influence of gender on level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry;
  3. Ascertain the influence of school type on level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry;
  4. Find out the influence of school location on level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry.

Significance of the Study

The study is anchored on theoretical and practical significance. The theoretical significance includes theories of identical elements, generalization and Gagne’s theory of hierarchical learning.

The theory of identical elements according to Thorndike stresses on the similarities or the commonness of elements between stimuli. It is the theory that proposed that, if elements are alike it can be transferred to another- like situation. In other words, the theory is of the view that transfer of learning can occur from one situation to another in as much as the two situations have common elements. As the similarities increase, the transfer increases and as the similarities decrease, the transfer will get less in percentage. It therefore, means that science process skills acquired in chemistry can comfortably be transferred to other science disciplines and non- science disciplines. It means that transfer of identical elements is possible; hence, this study will conform to the theory.

The theory of generalization according to Judd, held that transfer of learning can be accelerated when students or individuals learn general rules or principles of solving problem(s). It is the contention of this theory that if general principles of solving problems are learnt, then the learner can transfer this to solve problems. This theory equally stressed the importance of real practical experience with actual conditions in learning. This study is designed to identify the general scientific procedures acquired by chemistry students for carrying out practical chemistry which could be employed in carrying out related experiments in other science subjects. The findings of the study therefore, will contribute to proof of this theory through identification of the general scientific process skills which aid in learning of specific area of subject like practical chemistry.

According to Gagne’s theory, the prerequisite knowledge of concepts and principles can only be attained if the students have certain underlying capabilities in the science processes which are needed to practise and understand science. Gagne emphasized sequential organization of learning from simple activities to complex activities. This theory is championing the promotion of the process rather than the much emphasis on the concept approach. Therefore, the identification of the acquisition of process skills would help the students practice and understand science. This theory would be strengthened by this study.

Practical significance of the study is that extensive use of practical activities will facilitate acquisition, retention, recall of lessons learned and equally arouse and sustain the interest of the students as they participate in the activities. It is hoped that the assessment will play a diagnostic function by helping to discover the extent they have mastered the expected knowledge and skills. With this in mind, this study is necessary to create awareness for both integration of environment in the study of matters which make up the contents of the subject as they really understand more about themselves and their environment and striving to maintain balance between the two.

It will help to urge teachers to improve in substituting practical work for theoretical work with proper assessment technique. This will help the teachers to find out the extent of achievement of set out goals of instruction – hence, the effectiveness of the instructional method used. Identification of practical chemistry skills will help teachers to reduce examination malpractice that has flooded our educational system at least in practical chemistry. This is because the chance of copying another person’s work is ruled out since it is based on direct observation. A child scores for skills manifested in performing some activities and not only for the correct answers put down on paper.

The findings of this study will help curriculum planners and policy makers in planning and decision-making process which must come from needs of the students as well as society in general. It will help the curriculum developers and educational researchers to develop proper instrument for assessment of all type of educational domains respectively. This is important since no nation can talk of meaningful development structurally and technologically without ensuring first the life of individuals as well as maintain a delicate balance of nature. This cannot be achieved in any way if identification of practical skills is neglected in chemistry.

On the other hand, the findings will help owners of industries that use chemistry related products in their production process which improves healthy development of every nation. They will be reliable in the quality of chemists employed in their various sectors for high competency in the skills required.

Examination bodies like WAEC, National Business and Technical Board (NABTEB) and National Examination Council (NECO) will benefit in assessing senior secondary school students in practical chemistry skills through the use of direct observation of these skills from chemistry students. The examination bodies can adopt the instrument and organize workshops for teachers on the importance of it. There is no doubt that this will make the results to be more relevant and serve as predictor for students’ acquisition of further skills in science and other areas.

The findings of the study are therefore of utmost relevance to help correct the deplorable poor achievement in chemistry practical if the acquisition is found to be low in Enugu Education Zone. The active participation of students will ginger them to not only increase their interest in the subject but also create enduring effect on them


Scope of the Study

The study will be conducted in Enugu Education Zone of Enugu State. The choice of this zone is because to the best of the knowledge of the researcher, study on the identification of science process skills acquired by students in chemistry practical activities has not been done in the area. The science process skills to be covered are: observation skills, experimenting skills, controlling variables, measuring skills, recording skills, communication skills and inference skills. The choice of these seven process skills is based on the fact that they fall within the scope of the senior secondary school three (SSS III) students and to enable the raters to identify the students properly since one teacher will rate different students. This study will be delimited to all the senior secondary school three (SSSIII) chemistry students in the Education Zone because it is at this level that practical chemistry is taught to the students as found by previous findings (Eze 2001& Ugwuanyi 2011).


Research Questions

The following research questions would guide the study:

  1. What is the level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry?
  2. What is the influence of gender on level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry?
  3. What is the influence of school type on level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry?
  4. What is the influence of school location on level of science process skills acquired by students in practical chemistry?

Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses would be tested at [p< 0.05] level of significance to guide the study.

HO1: There is no statistically significant difference between the mean scores of male and female students on level of science process skills acquired in practical chemistry.

HO2: There is no statistically significant difference in the mean scores of male, female and co-educational school students on level of science process skills acquired in practical chemistry.

HO3: There is no statistically significant difference in the mean scores of urban and rural school students on level of science process skills acquired in practical chemistry.

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