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EFFECTS OF LABORATORY EXERCISES ON SCIENCE SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ PERFORMANCE IN CHEMISTRY

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ABSTRACT
This research work investigated the effects of laboratory exercises on science
secondary school students’ performance in chemistry, in Kaduna State, Nigeria. In most
of the literature reviewed, the final outcome favoured laboratory exercises. Quasi
experimental and descriptive survey research were employed in this study. In quasi
experimental design the researcher selected six (6) schools out of 372 science schools
across the state. Similarly, 31 schools were selected for survey research, questionnaire
was used to collect data. The six sample schools are from the central educational zone
selected through stratified sampling technique. Four research questions and two
hypotheses were formulated in conformity with the stated objectives. The reliability of
the twenty test items were obtained through pilot study, using Pearson Product
Moment Correlation Co-efficient r=0.78. While Cronbach Alpha was used to test the
reliability of the questionnaire r=0.55. The two null hypotheses were analyzed using Ttest
with α = 0.05. The researcher recommended among others that, chemistry teachers
should see laboratory exercises as a need that cannot be avoided.
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CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the Study
Laboratory is a focal point for all scientific activities. It is usually equipped with
tools that facilitate effective teaching and learning of science. Science is experimental
in nature and the laboratory helps to enhance scientific knowledge through the process
of science (observing, classifying, measuring and interaction with objects and events of
scientific interest). Abdullahi, (1982), emphasizes that science is not science unless it is
accompanied by laboratory exercises i.e putting theories into practice. Laboratory
provides ideal setting for skill development, discovery learning, inquiry and problem
solving activities. Laboratory work is a range of activities from true experimental
investigation to confirmatory exercises and skill acquisition. Since science is
experimental in nature, any course in science should reflect this by introducing
laboratory work. This is because, it is in the laboratory that learners learn science
through precise measurement, accurate observation and clarity in Communication
(Muhammad, 2010).
Laboratory work is an established part of chemistry at all levels of education.
The original reasons for its development lay in the need to produce skilled technicians
for the industry and highly competent workers for research laboratories (Morrell,
1972). There is need to prepare students practically in the laboratory as well as develop
some follow-up activities.
These may enrich and enhance the whole laboratory experience and enable it to
contribute more effectively to the overall learning of students in chemistry. It would be
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rare to find out any science course in any institution of education without a substantial
component of laboratory activity. However, it is taken for granted that experimental
work is a fundamental part of any science course and this is especially true for
chemistry courses. Very frequently, it is asserted that chemistry is a practical subject
and this is assumed, some what naively to offer adequate justification for the presence
of laboratory work. Thus, the development of experimental skills among the students is
often a suggested justification.
One of the main reasons to question the place of laboratory in science teaching
is that, laboratory programmes are very expansive in terms of facilities and material
resources, but also, more importantly in terms of staff-time (Carnduff & Reid, 2003).
Laboratory work is used to describe the practical activities which students undertake
using chemicals and equipments in chemistry laboratory. The word “practical” can
include other experimental activities conducted in the laboratory by students.
Laboratory classes are where science students acquire and practice key manipulative
and process skills while learning to move concepts from an abstract into a concrete
setting (O’ Brien & Cameron, 2008).
West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examinations
Council (NECO) on the other hand, being the highest examination bodies for Senior
secondary school students in Nigeria recommended that the teaching of all science
subjects listed in their syllabi should be practical based (WAEC, 2008). This perhaps is
to demonstrate the importance they attached to practical work in science.
Chemistry laboratory gives students an opportunity to handle equipment and
chemicals, to learn about safety procedures, to master specific techniques, to measure
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accurately and to observe carefully. However, making chemistry real and exposing
ideas to empirical test is of great importance. Skills of observation, deduction and
interpretation are also very important. In addition, there are many other important
practical skills to be developed such as team-work, reporting, presenting and,
developing ways to solve practical problems. Many school courses seek to develop
some of these outcomes to help students learn science through the wise use of properly
designed and utilize school laboratories for students to think scientifically. No matter
how good a student is, without learning materials and effective methodology of
teaching from his teacher may eventually lead him/her to low performance in
chemistry. It is possible to adopt laboratory method of teaching chemistry in order to
enhance students performance. This is because, laboratory teaching technique
encourage students to take more active role in their learning, it also create enthusiasm
and creativity in students (Carnduff & Reid, 2003).
The researcher is fully aware of other variables that could influence students
academic performance, like teacher’s qualification and adequacy, effectiveness,
availability of laboratory facilities, interest, leadership style e.t.c. towards the end of the
twentieth century, more sophisticated alternatives had been introduced to facilitate
effective learning in school laboratories. These include pre-laboratory experiences,
films, video experiments, computer based pre-laboratories, post-laboratory exercises
and computer simulations which can assist the students in Kaduna State to improve
their performance in chemistry (Carnduff & Reid, 2003).
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Inequalities in some instances down right deprivation have characterized the position of
women both in education system and in the Nigerian society at large. “Deny, anybody
education, you deny that human being freedom”. Women must be mobilized and
motivated to seek education for themselves and their daughters. They must also be
determined to get their daughters complete their study and to obtain reasonable and
worth wide grades in their examinations (Shehu, 1995).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Students performance in chemistry at the Senior Secondary Certificate
Examination (SSCE) WAEC in Kaduna state science schools, keep fluctuating. For
example, students that obtained credit pass in chemistry from Government College
Kaduna in 2010 was 62%, 79%, in 2011, 38% in 2012 and 57% in 2013. Schools with
similar problems are; Jupavi, Government Day Secondary school Sabon-Tasha, Girls
Science School Kwoi, just to mention but few. (Ministry of education, Kaduna State,
2014). There are so many factors that hinder the effective use of laboratory exercises in
teaching chemistry in the state. Such as; teachers work load, lack of equipments and
materials, lack of incentives, lack of laboratory assistant, it is time consuming, and lack
of exposure of students to laboratory exercises which affect their performance directly.
Practical covers 40% of the total score, and students can hardly conduct these practical
because they lack the basis and confidence to conduct such practical, which affect their
performance in Senior Secondary Certificate Examination.
Science teachers do not always find it convenient to make laboratory work the
center of their instruction, as the condition under which many teachers operate does not
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engender enthusiasm to use the laboratory method of teaching chemistry, even where
material and equipments are available. The workload and class size may be
discouraging (Ministry of Education, Kaduna State, 2014).
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are to find out;
1. the level of exposure of secondary school students to chemistry laboratory
exercises in Kaduna state.
2. the factors that hinder effective use of laboratory exercises in teaching
chemistry in Kaduna state
3. the difference in the performance of students that are exposed to chemistry
laboratory exercises and those that are not.
4. the difference in the performance of male and female secondary school students
exposed to chemistry laboratory exercises.
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions are raised to guide this study.
1. What is the level of exposure to chemistry laboratory exercises among
secondary school students in Kaduna State?
2. What are the factors that hinder the effective use of laboratory exercises in
teaching chemistry to secondary school students in Kaduna State?
3. Is there any difference in the performance of secondary school students exposed
to chemistry laboratory exercises and those that are not?
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4. Is there any difference in the performance of male and female students exposed
to chemistry laboratory exercises?
1.5 Null Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses are formulated and tested at α=0.05 level of
significance
1. There is no significant difference in the performance of secondary school
students exposed to chemistry laboratory exercises and those that are not.
2. There is no significant difference in the performance of male and female
secondary school students exposed to chemistry laboratory exercises.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The findings in this study will be significant to all science educators and
students, because it would help to remind them of the role accorded to practical work
in science. It would also remind school administrators/teachers of the need to adhere to
WAEC/NECO recommendations in their syllabi, by equipping students practically
before their final exams. It would also show the effect of laboratory exercises on
students performances in chemistry. A well designed science laboratory if prudently
used would enable students to learn the product of science, posses skills of the
scientists and develop scientific attitudes, hence this can enhance their performance.
1.7 Scope and Delimitation of the Study
The study is delimited to Science Secondary Schools Students in Kaduna State
that are offering chemistry. SS2 students are the targeted population, because they have
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covered a lot of their course work in chemistry and they know if practical are
conducted in their respective schools or not. The research is also delimited to the
following topics: volumetric analysis, test for ammonium ion and separating funnel
technique.

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