1.1 Background to the Study
Chemistry deals with the composition, properties and uses of matter. It probes into the principle governing the change that matter undergoes. Our world is made up of matter (anything that has mass and can occupy space) thus we study chemistry to acquire knowledge about matter and perform experiments to learn, observe, record and make intelligent inferences. Studying chemistry gives us training in the scientific method. Chemistry has become one of the most important science disciplines in the secondary school curriculum. At secondary school level, chemistry is taught through theory as well as practical which involve experimentation and demonstration to explain concepts. The study of chemistry as a science subject in senior secondary schools entails the exposure of learners to both theoretical and practical aspects of learning experiences. The methods of instruction vary depending on the nature of the content. Some content involves theory work while others involve practical work.
Extent of Integration of Practicals Into Teaching Of Chemistry
The conventional method of teaching chemistry in the secondary schools entail that theory aspect is taught in the classroom while practical aspect is taught in the laboratory. However, this method gives more priority to theory aspect and also it might seem difficult for students to relate or transfer the knowledge obtained in a theoretical class to a practical class or vice-versa. Ejedike and Oyelana (2015) found out that practical work is handled negligently or based on chemistry teachers’ conveniences. This neglect, according to Adesoji and Arowosegbe (2015) makes chemistry difficult for learners and consequently, they perceive chemistry as a difficult and abstract subject.
Njoku (2007) equally attributed descending differential achievement of students in chemistry in quantitative analysis, qualitative and theory of practical questions to wrong way and manner teachers teach practical chemistry. For proper understanding of the chemistry as a subject there is a need for integration of practical work in the teaching of chemistry by teachers. Integration is the act of bringing together smaller components into a single system that functions as one (Rouse, 2015). It can be seen as an act of combination, inclusion or bringing in of practical work into the teaching and learning of chemistry for better understanding of the phenomena or concepts that seems to be abstract to students. To remove the abstract nature of chemistry, integration of practical work is necessary in the secondary school syllabus of chemistry.
The West African Examination Council Syllabus (WAEC, 2016) recommended that the teaching of chemistry should be practical-based and that students should: have the understanding of basic chemistry concepts, acquire laboratory skills, be aware of the inter-relationship between chemistry and other disciplines and be aware of the linkage between chemistry and industry/ environment /everyday life in terms of benefits and hazards; and skills of critical and logical thinking. This is to demonstrate the importance of practical work in chemistry.
The practical experience constitutes an integral part of chemistry because the subject consists of many topics that can be verified experimentally with an objective to create an enabling environment to stimulate students learning about chemistry that is commonly presumed as abstract, quantitative and boring (Read & Kable, 2007). When practical work is not properly integrated in the teaching of chemistry, it will surely show in their academic performances. The Chief Examiner’s report on practical chemistry (2015) indicated that the inadequacies in students’ performance was attributed to the following weaknesses; non- adherence to rubric, arithmetical errors in volume of acid-used, averaging non-concordant value, poor mathematical skills; poor knowledge of S.I units of mass concentration and molar concentration, tests of solids instead of solutions among others. These weaknesses may be as result of negligence of teachers to integrate practical work or the integration of practical work is done by teachers that are not professionally qualified to teach chemistry.
Abe and Adu (2013) opined that teacher’s qualification / teaching qualification, is one of a number of academic and professional degrees that enable a person to become a registered teacher in primary or secondary school. Such qualification includes but not limited to the postgraduate diploma in education (PGDE), professional diploma in education (PDE), Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), Bachelor of Science Education (B.Sc. Ed), Bachelor of Art Education (B.A. Ed) and national certificate in education (NCE). In Taraba State teachers who are academically qualified or are professionally qualified are engaged to carry out instructional process. Academically qualified teachers refer to those who have academic training as a result of enrolment into educational institution and obtained qualification such as HND, B.Sc., B.A, M.A, and so on while professionally qualified teachers are those who got professional training that gave them professional knowledge, skills, technique, aptitude as different from the general education (Edu & Kalu, 2012). A teacher is someone who has been exposed to a good measure of training in a teaching subject areas as well as professional education. One thing is to be well grounded in the conceptual understanding of a subject; another thing is to be well equipped with the best method to pass the concepts across to the learners for proper comprehension. A professional teacher would be desirable in this regard.
According to Ikeobi (2010), it is the teacher who organizes the interactions between the subject (learner) and the object (learning materials). It is the teacher who ensures that equipment and materials are properly used by the learner to achieve the expected objectives. All these point to the fact that teacher is a very significant factor when the learners failed to exhibit the expected mastery in a science subject like chemistry. Owalobi (2012) found out that students’ perform better when taught by professional teacher than when taught by non- professional. Many other researchers such as Akinsolu (2010), Ouma (2011) and Njoku (2015) also found out that teacher’s qualifications influence students’ academic performance.
The Chemistry Chief Examiner’s report (2015) revealed that there is an increase in lack of understanding, comprehension and assimilation of chemistry as a science subject. This may be as a result of who teaches chemistry and how has it been taught. For the in-depth understanding of the subject as majority of the concept in chemistry seem to be abstract, students require practical classes organized by professionally qualified teacher that will help the students to visualize what they have been taught in a theoretical class. Many factors have been identified as responsible for lack of understanding and poor performance of students in chemistry; these are inadequate resources both human and material, curriculum related impediment and lack of laboratory work among others. In view of the several suspected factors mentioned as the reasons responsible for the continued students’ poor performance in chemistry, this study sought to investigate the extent of integration of practicals into teaching of chemistry in secondary schools.
Extent of Integration of Practicals Into Teaching Of Chemistry
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Chemistry is a core science subject in the senior secondary school is designed to equip students with the knowledge of relevant concepts and scientific skills. The main center for the study of chemistry practicals in secondary schools is science laboratory. Anionu (2012) observed that most science laboratories exist in names only. They are generally used as ordinary classroom. The reason is due to lack of facilities for science laboratory in secondary school or in school in general. Similarly, Offiah (2013) noted that many students perform poorly in practical related subject not only because of lack of laboratory equipment and materials but also poor usage of laboratory equipment and materials but also poor usage of laboratory by the science teachers. This study therefore intents to examine the extent of integration of practicals into teaching of chemistry in secondary schools.